For the Birds: May Day Bird - American Robin

Sunday, May 1, 2016

American Robin
Photo by Christine Southwick

By Christine Southwick

Perhaps no other bird is as associated with the oncoming of the Spring/ Summer season.

A harbinger of warm weather, walks in the park, picnics on the ground, this stop-and-go seeker-of-worms-in-lawns, brings a welcoming smile to adults and young children alike.

Community bath
Photo by Christine Southwick

Americans have a long positive relationship with robins. These predominately open-area birds are relatively unafraid of most human activity, thus being easy to see. Homesick early English settlers named the American Robin after the Robin of their homeland. Though both robins have red breasts, eat worms, and are often found around soil-turning humans, these two species are not related at all.

Our robins are the largest of the thrush family. Being familiar to most everyone, their profile is used by birders to help identify other birds..”larger/ smaller than a robin”.

Juvenile robin exploring its world - leaves aren't food
Photo by Christine Southwick

American Robins are willing to nest near humans, so familiar that the color of their eggs have become a paint color “Robin Blue”, or “Robin's Egg Blue”.  Robins can have up to three broods a year, usually four eggs each time, but since their nests are built on a horizontal branch, and often not hidden well, only about 40% of their nestlings survive, and only 25% of their spotted fledglings make it to November. Both parents aggressively defend their nests.

About half of the robins survive each year, so these extra broods are what keep this species viable. Thankfully, as more people stop using poisons on their lawns, more robins are surviving, and a lucky, smart robin could live up to fourteen years.

American Robins breed in the widest range of habitats of all Washington songbirds. They mostly eat worms and ground insects, but in the wintertime eat mainly fruits, sometimes with drunken results if the fruits have fermented.

Robin snagging a worm out of grass
Photo by Christine Southwick

Robins can form large flocks in the winter, and even though their Latin name is Turdus Migratorious, they are considered short distance migrants. Indeed, the robins you see in the winter may not be the same ones you see in the summer — our winter birds most likely come from further north. Another reason you don’t see as many robins in the winter is that as their diets shift more to fruits, they are not as often on the ground and are more likely to shelter in trees.

Reduce your use of herbicides/ pesticides/ harsh fertilizers, and birds, especially American Robins, will thank you, and grace your area with happy bubbly songs.


Peggy Bartleson May 1, 2016 at 9:06 AM  

Wonderful article and photos!

Anonymous,  May 2, 2016 at 9:27 AM  

What a great article - Thank you, Christine!

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