The Fabled Robin Redbreast

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The British Robin

We see a lot of robins at this time of year, particularly on Christmas cards, because in the past the postmen wore red tunics and were nicknamed ‘Robins’, so they appear on the kinds in their bird form as tokens of the deliverymen. The Robin was originally called the Redbreast but as people began to add proper names to the names of animals and birds they became Robin Redbreast, later shortened simply to Robin; much the same happened with the Jenny Wren and the Jackdaw. In Lancashire there is a rhyme,
“The robin and wren
Are God’s cock and hen.
The spink and the sparrow
Are the deil’s bow and arrow.”
(The spink is a dialect name for the chaffinch or sometimes the yellowhammer).