Tuesday, June 18, 2013

American Robin

The last snow on the ground is finally melted away. It is early spring. The first hints of warmth are beating down from the sun. Life, for as long as you can remember... has it been 6 weeks? No, maybe 2 months... longer? Who knows how long it has been since you've seen green grass, but it is a glorious site. The bright green of new growth is surrounding you. You finally get a chance to sit out on your back deck with a nice cocktail after work when all of a sudden you hear a "whinney" from a tree in your side yard... you know this sound. It means spring is officially here. And as if it knew you were thinking of it, a flash of orange descends onto your yard on a mission for a tasty treat.

American robin searching for a morning snack
The American robin, Turdus migratorius, for many in northern North America, is the first sign of spring. Though its range stretches into areas where it can be viewed year around, it is typically one of the earliest birds to lay its eggs during the breeding season. These resourceful buggers make their nest out of anything from paper to twigs. It smears mud to hold the nest all together and often will make a soft lining out of grass. A protected and safe nesting site can sometimes produce up to 3 broods in one year.

With a sleet gray to brown back and head, and a bright orange chest and belly, there isn't any other bird in North America that can really be mistaken for an American robin. When in flight, a white patch under the tail and lower belly can be noticed. There isn't much sexual dimorphism within this species, however, the female does tend to have a paler head.

American robin surveying the area
This large member of the thrush family's typical habitat can be classified as grassy open spaces (i.e., lawns, tundras, parks, etc), as well as deciduous and evergreen woodlands. They are often found hopping along or standing erect on a lawn searching for invertebrates, such as earthworms or grubs, but can also also seen in bushes and trees feeding on caterpillars, fruits and berries. Typically, a robin's diet changes throughout the day, with more yummy earthworms in the morning and more delectable berries in the afternoon. During the late fall and winter months, they often gather in large flocks (sometimes numbering close to 250,000 individuals!) to eat persistant berries and roots. Often, when winter flocks feed exclusively on honeysuckle berries, they can become intoxicated! Go home robin, you're drunk!

Being an impressive songster and among the first birds to sing at dawn (often before... making a many camper grumpy with the early wake-up call), its song is a loud, repeated musical whistle the ascends and descends through a series of notes. They have a variety of calls ranging from an alarm 'yeep chuck' to a loud (and I think quite obnoxious) 'whinney.' To hear their songs and calls, or to learn some more cool facts about American Robins, visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

I wonder what a honeysuckle intoxicated robin's song sounds like...

Some interesting tid-bits:
  • Only 40% of nest produce offspring
  • Only 25% of young Robins survive the first year
  • The average lifespan is 2 year; longest known is 14 years
  • State bird of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin
  • Was featured on the Canadian $2 bill, which is now withdrawn


  1. Such a down-to-business bird. One of the first you learn about as a child, and is there anything more iconic than the powder-blue eggshell? Awesome writeup buddy, I look forward to more from you.

  2. loved it Brincka.... keep em coming and I'll keep reading... what a great one to begin with, our friend the Robin