European Robin

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7-10, see text.

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), most commonly known in Anglophone Europe simply as the Robin, is a small insectivorous passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family (Turdidae), but is now considered to be an Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae). Around 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 in) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upperparts and a whitish belly. It is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa; it is sedentary in most of its range except the far north.

The term Robin is also applied to some birds in other families with red or orange breasts. These include the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), which is a thrush, and the Australian red robins of the genus Petroica, members of a family whose relationships are unclear.

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Taxonomy

The European Robin was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae, under the name of Motacilla rubecula.[2] Its specific epithet rubecula is a diminutive derived from the Latin ruber 'red'.[3] The genus Erithacus was created by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1800, giving the bird its current binomial name of E. rubecula.[4]

The distinctive orange breast of both sexes contributed to the European Robin's original name of redbreast (orange as the name of a colour was unknown in English until the sixteenth century, by which time the fruit of that name had been introduced). In the fifteenth century, when it became popular to give human names to familiar species, the bird came to be known as Robin redbreast, which was eventually shortened to Robin.[5] Other older English names for the bird include Ruddock and Robinet. In American literature of the late 19th century, this robin was frequently called the English Robin.[6] The Frisian robyntsje or robynderke is similar to the English name,[7] while Dutch Roodborstje and French Rougegorge both refer to the distinctively coloured front.[8]

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