Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Robin

No prize for identifying this one. Erithacus rubecula might not be its familiar epithet, but that's its current binomial. Carl Linnaeus put it down as Motacilla rubecula, but George Cuvier came along in 1800 and 'created' the Erithacus genus. I guess it was easier for geniuses to create genera in those days. (Apparently Linnaeus is the type specimen for Homo sapiens, which is an interesting aside.)
My Collins guide has our friend the robin down as belonging to the Thrush family, Turdidae, but according to Wikipedia, the sub-family of chats, Saxicolinae, has been relocated with the Muscicapadae, or Old World Flycatchers. 

There are only two others in the genus Erithacus, and they're both found over in Japan.

People often think of robins as friendly because they will come close to you. In fact they're often being aggressively territorial. If it's approaching the breeding season and you turn up to a robin's patch wearing red, you may even be attacked. A friend of ours was quite traumatised by such an experience.

Robins also often sing at night in the presence of unnatural light (there was an interesting article about the effects of artificial light on wildlife in British Wildlife magazine recently). Their song is sometimes mistaken for that of the nightingale because of this, I presume by those who have never heard a nightingale!

Robins are monomorphic. That is, the two sexes cannot be distinguished by appearance. Blue tits were thought to be the same, but apparently their blue heads look different if you can see ultraviolet light. Which they can.
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