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The Robin's Namesake

Though small, it packs a mighty, symbolic punch

Like the American Robin, the European Robin is a bird of yards and gardens. But it’s not much bigger than a chickadee. The robin’s likeness turns up everywhere from Mother Goose rhymes, Peter Rabbit stories, and whiskey labels to postage stamps and Christmas cards. On at least two occasions, the “Robin Red-Breast” has won the popular vote to become the UK’s unofficial national bird. And as for its breast color — one account has it that when the robin visited souls in Purgatory to refresh them with water, its breast was scorched to its current shade.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®  
The Robin’s Namesake
Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

The American Robin rates as one of our best-known birds.

[American Robin song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/168300, 0.07-.09]

The roots of its common name lie in Europe, though — and a distant relative — a bird not much bigger than a chickadee: the European Robin.

[European Robin song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/162860, 0.06-.09]

Like the American Robin, the European Robin is a bird of yards and gardens and has a red-orange breast – so it’s often called “Robin Red-Breast,” or just “robin.”

[European Robin song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/162860, 0.06-.09]

And it’s something of a cultural touchstone in the UK. The Robin Red-Breast’s seasonal arrival harkens Spring; it’s been said to signal good luck. And its likeness turns up everywhere from Mother Goose rhymes, Peter Rabbit stories, and whiskey labels, to postage stamps and Christmas cards. The little robin pops up in European folklore, too, including Norse mythology, where it was sacred to mighty Thor.

And as for its breast color — one account has it that when the robin visited souls in Purgatory to refresh them with water, its breast was scorched to its current shade.

On at least two occasions, the Robin Red-Breast has won the popular vote to become the UK’s unofficial national bird.

So clearly, although small, it packs a mighty, symbolic punch.

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.

[European Robin song, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/162860, 0.06-.09]

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
168300 recorded by Wilbur L Hershberger and 162860 recorded by Gregory F Budney.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2017 Tune In to Nature.org   February 2017   Narrator:  Mary McCann

ID#            EURROB-01-2017-02-21    EURROB-01    

Voted national bird: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-33090043
Other sources: http://newmexicobirds.blogspot.com/2009/03/little-robin-redbreast.html?m=1

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