Santa is still alive - Robin that is!

01 Dec 2014 | No. 2014-74

Thanks to a relatively mild start to the year, a bumper breeding season, and plenty of food available in the wider countryside this autumn, it’s been a good year for Robins, including the extraordinary Santa Robin!

It’s probably thanks to favourable weather that Santa Robin has made it to another Christmas. First brought to our attention in 2012, this remarkable leucistic bird with a Santa beard had already defied the odds by being amongst the 40% of Robins that survive their first year.  It has now survived at least three winters in Derbyshire, making it older than the average Robin.

Robins, in general, have had a successful year, according to the latest British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch results. Relatively mild weather meant that they started off in low numbers in gardens at the beginning of the year because they were able to survive in the wider countryside without our help.

With a healthier population of Robins, and a productive breeding season, Robin numbers soon rose in gardens, reaching an all-time high for BTO Garden BirdWatch at the end of August. This, combined with another warm autumn and plenty of natural foods available, gave them a boost for the coming winter.

Clare Simm, from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team, commented, “It is fantastic to hear that Santa Robin is still out there. Winter is a challenging time for Robins as they struggle to find enough food to survive the cold nights. Gardens are important havens for them, but without help from our volunteers we won’t know how Robins get on this winter. If you spend a few minutes each week watching what the birds get up to in your garden, then you are already doing enough to take part in the BTO Garden BirdWatch. Get in touch with us for a free magazine and information pack on how to take part."

Will this winter be another mild one for Santa Robin and the rest of his species, or will they need our help to survive? Help us find out!

To get your free magazine and information pack, or to find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch please get in touch by emailing gbw [at], telephoning 01842 750050, or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 14,500 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see
  2. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.
  3. Santa Robin came to our attention through the BTO Abnormal Plumage Survey. This survey is gathering data to explore questions about what species are affected most frequently by unusually-coloured feathers, in what ways, and where these birds are found.

Contact Details

Clare Simm
(BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: clare.simm [at]

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2014-74

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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