Could someone tell me if a Robin loses its red breast and turns brown in the summer? I was told this today and didn't know whether to believe them.
A bird in the hand can make an awful mess!
No, adult Robins keep their red breasts for life. Juvenile Robins lack the red breast, and are brown and spotty, which helps protect them from other Robins including their own parents (the red being a 'trigger' for territorial aggression). But this first plumage only lasts a few weeks, then the bird begins to moult and develop a red breast.
Aristotle did think that Robins change their plumage in summer. In his 'History of Animals' he states that 'The erithacus (or redbreast) and the so-called redstart change into one another; the former is a winter bird, the latter a summer one, and the difference between them is practically limited to the coloration of their plumage.' In fact the Redstart and the Robin are two different species, but the Redstart is a summer visitor, while the Robin is present all year but much more noticeable in winter, when it's not busy breeding. Aristotle didn't know about migration, so thought that all Robins turned into Redstarts in summer then back again in autumn :)
Here's a juvenile Robin:
psst, want to see my blog? http://mazzaswildside.blogspot.co.uk/
Hi, Maybe the person concerned had seen a Dunnock and assumed it was a Robin without its red breast just an idea?
My Photos in Flickr.