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It is not easy to distinguish between male and female robins, because their size, plumage and song are very similar. However, with the right knowledge, it is possible to notice differences.

In a nutshell

  • Robins are difficult to tell apart by sex
  • for an accurate distinction, the age of the birds must be known
  • Nesting behaviour, but also plumage, dimensions and song can be clues
  • males and females can be differentiated more easily during courtship and offspring

loudness and duration of the song

As a rule, the female birds of this species sing more quietly and briefly than the male representatives. Although they can sing almost as melodiously as their male counterparts, the difference is still noticeable in a direct comparison.
In addition, the songbirds can be heard primarily during the mating season. The female Erithacus rubecula - as the bird species is scientifically called - then sing to draw attention to themselves and to encourage the males to feed.

color and plumage

In young birds, the feathers are brownish-grey. An orange breast develops later. From around the second year of life, the proportion of gray on the chest of male Erithacus rubecula increases again. This reduces the orange to rust-brown coloring and looks more like a bib or collar.
In the case of the female animals, on the other hand, the proportion of color remains the same. However, this factor only serves as a distinguishing feature when the age of the birds is known. Otherwise, a female robin is indistinguishable from a young male of the same species.


As with many other animal species, the male birds are slightly larger than the females. With increasing age, the chest of the male specimens broadens. As with plumage, comparison and knowledge of age are required to distinguish them.


The courtship behavior includes, among other things, that the males feed the females. If this process can be observed in two adult animals, the distinction is comparatively easy.
The male bird shows that he can prove himself as a provider.

rearing of the chicks

When the birds hatch and the chicks hatch, the mother remains almost entirely in the nest for at least two weeks. During this time, the male bird is busy providing food for both the young and the mother.
Robins that fly actively during the breeding season are therefore usually male specimens.

territorial behavior

Furthermore, male and female robins can be distinguished based on their territorial behavior. Especially during the courtship and breeding season. Important points are:

  • similar looking birds can be confused with the Erithacus rubecula
  • violent flapping of wings while sitting usually only occurs in female specimens
  • male animals stay in one territory
  • female birds stay primarily in nesting areas

Tip: If a bird stays in the same area over and over again, it is very likely a male animal.

Robin, Erithacus rubecula

nest building

Both sexes are involved in nest building. it is therefore correspondingly difficult to distinguish between them. However, knowing the location of a nest is helpful because it allows the birds to be observed for a longer period of time. This is the only way to differentiate the respective sex of the Erithacus rubecula with comparative certainty.
However, the animals build their nests in very different positions. For example:

  • burrows
  • hedges
  • wall openings
  • bushes

The nest consists of various materials, including:

  • feathers
  • fur and hair
  • moss
  • branches and dried grass

Tip: The nests are usually close to the ground and are reminiscent of a bowl in shape.

Source: Neptul, Bird's Nest Ground Breeders, edited from Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 4.0


Continuous observation makes sense for differentiation. However, since the birds are very shy and territorial, this should not be done at close range.
Practical tools are therefore:

  • binoculars
  • photographic recordings
  • trail camera

frequently asked Questions

When do robins lay eggs?

The birds lay eggs once or twice a year. The breeding season can therefore last from April to August.

Are robins migratory?

Depending on the temperatures in winter, the animals are migratory or resident birds. In northern Europe and the east, they are migratory birds that overwinter in the Mediterranean.

Where do the birds primarily breed?

Forests with thickets and gardens with hedges and bushes are popular nesting sites. If you want to attach nesting boxes, you should position them close to the ground but protected from other animals.

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