Cocky robin! The bird who favours the shaved head of a tree surgeon as a perch

With Christmas approaching, most people are usually content with pictures of robins on Christmas cards or robin ornaments on top of the fireplace.

But John Hancock has his own real life robin.

Mr Hancock's red-breasted friend loves nothing more than standing on the guy's head and eating titbits of bread or oatmeal biscuits out of his hand. The robin also loves Chicken Nibblers.

Mr Hancock is a tree surgeon, and whenever he and his workmates drive their truck into the yard in Worcester the robin flies down.

The robin even enters the van so he can have his tasty treats.

In Britain and northern France, robins are one of the symbols of Christmas, appearing on Christmas cards and as Christmas ornaments and Christmas tree baubles. This is probably due to the fact that postmen in 19th Century Britain - who, of course, delivered Christmas cards - wore red uniforms and were nicknamed "Robins." The robin is also Britain's national bird.

It is the European Robin, not the much larger North American Robin, which features on Christmas cards. It is found all over Europe, as far west as the British Isles and far east as western Siberia. It is also found in North Africa.

Cocky robin! The bird who favours the shaved head of a tree surgeon as a perch

By Cher Thornhill
12th December 2009
Daily Mail

You're more likely to find them perched on the handle of your spade.

But this robin is clearly more familiar with humankind than most.

As well as favouring the shaven head of tree surgeon John Hancock, he also turns up daily on the steering wheel or dashboard of his van to be hand-fed crumbs of bread or oatmeal biscuits.

A head for heights: Tree surgeon John Hancock with the wild robin he has befriended

Mr Hancock, 40, said his feathered friend started dropping in for lunch a fortnight ago, although he has been a familiar sight for longer.

As soon as Mr Hancock and colleagues Tom Murray and Matthew Paddan drive their truck into the yard in Worcester, the robin flies down.

'He has become tamer and tamer and it's a lovely feeling having a wild bird perched on your hand eating titbits from your fingertips,' said Mr Hancock, a father-of-two.

'We used to throw the odd crumb towards him, but none of us expected him to join us in the truck every day. He will take anything out of your hands and seems to enjoy human company.'

Now the robin descends from nearby trees every day and lands on Johnís wing mirror ready for the snacks they bring especially for him.

Lunchtime! John breaks up some breadcrumbs as the robin waits on his car window

With his workmates, John feeds the robin for 15 minutes before shooing him away so they can get back to work.

An old British folk tale explains the origins of the Robin's distinctive red breast. Legend has it that when Jesus was dying on the cross, the Robin, then simply brown in colour, flew to his side and sang into his ear in order to comfort him in his pain. The blood from his wounds stained the Robin's breast, and thereafter all Robins got the mark of Christ's blood upon them. In the 1960s, the Robin was adopted as the national bird of Britain. Unlike other countries, official emblems such as flags and anthems become national by convention and usage rather than by vote in Parliament. The Robin was used as a symbol of the Bird Protection Society. Several English and Welsh professional football teams are nicknamed "The Robins"; Bristol City, Swindon Town, Cheltenham Town and, traditionally, Wrexham FC: the nickname is derived from those clubs' home colours being red. In addition to the football club, the Swindon Robins is the full name of the local Speedway team. It is also the nickname of the English Rugby League team Hull Kingston Rovers. The nickname is derived from the club's home colours, of white with a red band, linking to the redbreast of the Robin.

John has put video footage of the robin on YouTube, where it has so far been watched over 5,000 times.

He said: 'We see robins quite often in our line of work, but no tree surgeon ever has them this close.'

Pride of place: The robin has flown down from nearby trees and perched on John's wing mirror every day for the last two weeks

Mr Hancock said since he has started feeding the robin, which he is yet to name, the bird has developed a taste for Chicken Nibblers - snack size pieces of chicken covered in breadcrumbs - which he sometimes includes in his packed lunch.

The three workmates, who are all tree specialists for Worcester City Council, plan to leave fat balls hanging in the yard, on the outskirts of the city, so the robin is well fed over the Christmas break.

Robins have become a traditional symbol of the British winter and are a popular illustration on Christmas cards.

Many continental robins join native birds here for the winter to escape the colder temperatures on the continent.

Good taste: The bird eats titbits from John's fingertips and prefers Chicken Nibblers - small pieces of chicken covered in breadcrumbs

Native robins are noted for their tameness, and are considered the easiest to train to feed from the hand.

Continental robins are often shot for sport or food and, as a result, remain a shy woodland species.

Louise Pedersen, from the RSPB, said the bird's tameness suggested it was almost certainly a native robin.

She added: 'They are known as the gardener's friend and will often come up to people for food once they have built up a relationship with someone.

'Robins are very territorial so it is very likely this is the same bird each time who knows it is safe.

'But I have never heard of a robin coming into someoneís car for food though.'
Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 13th, 2009 at 01:45 PM..
British robins appear to be much smaller than the robins we have around here, blackleaf. This is a real neat post. Thank you for sharing. I am a real sucker for animal/bird stories.

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