The quintessential Christmas bird, especially if Christmas cards are anything to go by, must surely be the robin. Small, approachable and endearingly dumpy, the robin is one of Britain’s best-loved birds, regularly topping any opinion poll that is carried out to find the nation’s favourite – most recently in 2015 when it received 34% of the votes (the runner-up, the barn owl, only received 12%).
Around Christmas time, the whole country comes together and there’s a universal appreciation for one of my all-time favourite animals – the robin. And I’m not the only one who loves this charismatic little bird. Here in the UK, our passion for the robin has caused it to become extraordinarily tame, and it isn’t uncommon to see one flitting between your feet, collecting crumbs, as you sit on a park bench.
The earliest proto-birds, such as the famous Archaeopteryx, had heavy, tooth-filled jaws. But as birds continued to evolve and became increasingly aerial animals, they developed new ways of keeping their weight down. In addition to gaining hollow bones, their jaws changed too, into lightweight, versatile keratin structures – beaks.