By Dúlra

A robin’s not just for Christmas – they’re our favourite bird all year around. And as this picture shows, it’s no wonder.

Jane McComb is a keen gardener and over the period of a year managed to build up a relationship with her garden robin.

Every day she offered it some food, often dropping titbits take from the kitchen at her feet as she worked on her vegetable beds on the outskirts of South Belfast. And when she dug up a worm, she’d leave it on a paving stone to be gobbled up by the bird. The robin was clearly delighted with its new benefactor.

When the weather turned and she couldn’t make it into the garden, it would sit on the windowsill, looking into the house, begging for her to come out.

One day, she decided to put her new friend to the ultimate test – would it take food from her hand?

There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation. The robin leapt up and landed like it was a trained parrot.

Jane said: “This wee robin was always very close by as I worked. Eventually it was right by my feet or hand, picking off whatever was dug up as I worked on the soil.

“I began to put some bird food in my pocket and gave a little to it when it arrived. It didn’t seem to mind collecting the food from very close indeed.

“It used to fly close to my head when I went out to the garden to let me know it was time for a titbit.

“My teenage son even fed it in the house once when it came in through the open back door.

 

Summer

“And when we were eating outside in early summer we would put a little food on the end of the table and it would help itself while we ate.

“When I put the food on my hand one day, it took it immediately.”

In fact, this robin is now part of the family. Over the summer, it didn’t bother Jane for food much – it didn’t need to. But now that winter has hit, it’s never far away.

You have to hand it to Jane (pun intended) – it takes real patience to break down centuries of engrained mistrust (no, Dúlra’s not talking about the Haass talks). Birds’ fear of people is a survival mechanism that is so basic it’s almost genetic.

The robin, spideog in Irish, is a symbol of Christmas because its  breast is said to have been stained red by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Jane could even get her robin to pose for some unique Christmas cards!

For all their cuteness, they are feisty little things and will battle ruthlessly to ward off interlopers who stray into their territory.

Meanwhile, a reader in North Belfast reports an incredible incident when a peregrine falcon crashed into his patio doors  apparently chasing – wait for it – a wooden duck.

The falcon fell to the ground, but was able to pick itself up and fly off in search of some more realistic prey.

The reader, who lives in the Dunmore area of North Belfast, says: “My wife has a wooden duck ornament beside the window and I can only think that the peregrine thought it was real.

“I like birdwatching and always feed the birds and for the last few weeks a sparrowhawk has arrived to chase the finches and sparrows. But it’s the first time I’ve seen a peregrine here and I’m just glad it didn’t kill itself.”

Peregrines are at the very top of the food chain and it’s a privilege to see one. They are actually the fastest bird in the world – isn’t it incredible that a local bird can claim such a record? – and wouldn’t bother themselves with garden birds.

It prefers to dine on pigeon and, yes, duck.

If you have any questions or have spotted anything interesting, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804.

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