Robins revel in warmer winters

Populations of the festive favourite soar, but not so for its fellow red-breasts

A A A

The robin, Britain's favourite bird, is on song this Christmas. New figures show the feathered friend of gardeners up and down the country is enjoying a resurgence.

Population numbers for the robin, the star of festive greetings since Victorian cardmakers capitalised on the link between scarlet tunic-clad postmen and the red-breasted bird, have increased by 49 per cent since 1970, when figures were first logged.

However, its success has turned the spotlight on the plight of Britain's other red-breasted birds, which are disappearing at perilous rates. Fellow wintry species including the linnet, bullfinch and lesser redpoll are seeing declines of 56, 47 and 88 per cent respectively, according the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Milder winters are believed to be one of the main reasons why the estimated 5.5 million breeding pairs of robins are flourishing. The RSPB's Grahame Madge said warm weather and the bird's capacity to take advantage of earlier springs mean it is doing incredibly well.

"Robins have been knocked back by hard winters, but they have the potential to bounce back very quickly; they are resilient. Compared to 40 years ago, they are doing incredibly well and will remain a feature of Christmas for a long time to come," he said. "It seems the other red-breasted birds have suffered from a lack of food availability and a decline in their habitat."

Experts say the extent of the decline in linnets, bullfinches and lesser redpolls has slowed in the past 10 years but two of the species, linnets and lesser redpolls, remain on the RSPB and BTO's red list, meaning they are a conservation priority.

The fellow red-breasts are found in gardens, farmland and woodland, and their decline can in part be explained by deterioration of their habitat as a result of modern farming, the decline in woodland management and agricultural land-use change, according to conservationists.

The BTO and RSPB said conditions could be improved if farmers adopt the Government's agri-environment schemes, which fund green farming methods such as creating wildlife habitats. The BTO's Paul Stancliffe said the situation "highlights the need for continued monitoring" of the species.

Red alert

There are around 25,000 pairs of lesser redpolls in the UK (down 88 per cent since 1970), 535,000 pairs of linnets (56 per cent down) and 158,000 pairs of bullfinches (47 per cent down). The males of all three display red breasts similar to the robin, although the female robin also boasts scarlet plumage.

Bullfinches, named for their large frame, live in woodlands, orchards and hedgerows, and the loss of numbers is thought to be partly down to reduced nesting and feeding habitats. Linnets are tiny finches, favouring farmland and thought to be in decline as a result of modern farming methods that deplete seeds. The lesser redpolls is predominantly a woodland bird and likes to hang upside down in trees to feed. The loss of woodland is said to have played a part in their decline.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

C#.NET Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF, WCF, ASP.NET, Prism...

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband