Greetings Today magazine, giving you the bigger picture

Remove ruthless robin

Popular bird looks cute but author says vicious creature should be pushed off festive card perch


THE robin may be Britain’s favourite bird a Guardian columnist is convinced the pretty but vicious creature should be kicked off its perch as one of the most popular Christmas card images.

Writing in the newspaper last week, author Richard Smyth said: “robins are belligerent, petty and brutally confrontational birds – 10 per cent of all adult robin deaths are robin-on-robin incidents and they will go after other creatures too.
“Of course, this kind of behaviour is just a function of the robin’s evolved nature. It doesn’t mean to be a blood-soaked thug, and we can’t blame it for being one. All I’ll say is, I don’t think territorial murder is very Christmassy.
“It’s too late, alas, to unseat the robin as the UK’s flagship bird – it was re-elected in 2015 – but I do think it’s high time we had a talk about putting it on our Christmas cards.
“A story about how the robin first became ubiquitous in our festive imagery because of an association with the red-coated Victorian postmen nicknamed ‘robins’ sounds too neat to be true, but more or less is, some early cards depicted robins carrying letters in their beaks.
“Robins already had folkloric connections with Christianity and an ancient – perhaps even pre-Christian – place in our winter iconography. They cornered the Christmas market early doors and continue to wield a degree of marketing clout a Starbucks red cup can only dream of. It’s time for someone else to challenge the monopoly.”
In keeping with the festive colour theme Richard goes on to suggest the handsome songbird the redwing, then there’s the adorable fluffy grey, pink and white long-tailed tits, or dinky goldcrests, adding: “All of these birds would supply the awww-factor demanded by Christmas taste-makers, and without the robin’s tiresome look-at-me neediness.”
Having mentioned other less familiar birds such as the woodcock, golden plover or black-tailed godwit, he plumps for the more well-known wren.
Richard, who wrote A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When The Birds Sing, said: it outdoes the robin on every festive metric – it’s cuter, it’s less murderous, and its song is both ear-splittingly loud and irrepressibly high-spirited.
“And like us, wrens gather together for warmth: a wren roost is a cosy bundle of avian hygge that might include as many as 50 or 60 snuggling birds (with the whole lot together weighing no more than a plum pudding). Now that’s a bird that belongs on a Christmas card.”
Maybe the designers and illustrators of the greetings card world should start a revolution!

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