For the Birds: Happy Morning Chorus

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Communal bathing

Story and photos by Christine Southwick

American Robins start singing their lovely cheery songs just before dawn and can be seen running across lawns and curbs, suddenly stopping and tilting their heads looking for their tasty worm meals.

When you really look at robins, you’ll see that they are pretty birds, with black stripes on a white throat, and white feathers around the eyes. Females are paler than males, and juveniles have spots on their buff breasts.

Juvie learning that leaves aren't food

Robins are one of the first birds most people learn to recognize, and their size is often used as a reference, as in, “Larger than a chickadee, smaller than a robin.”

Even though we see robins all the time, chances are they aren’t the same ones. Most here in the winter go further north to breed, and the ones who breed here probably came from Oregon or California. Even its name, Turdus Migratorius, recognizes this songbird’s short-distance movements. American Robins are members of the Thrush family.

Robins are social and feed in small flocks, with larger flocks at night, and when migrating. In addition to worms, they eat volumes of beetle grubs and caterpillars. Robins watch vigilantly for predators like cats or hawks, and you can often see a robin on guard duty while others are bathing.

Female gathering mud for nest building

The female makes the nest, coating it with mud and grass before laying three to five blue eggs in a tree or under an eave. Jays, crows, squirrels, and in some places, snakes, like their eggs. Both parents loudly and boldly protect their eggs and their fledglings until they can forage on their own. Even so, less than 25 % of each year’s broods survive to see their first November.

The worm that didn't get away

Cats, crows, hawks, window strikes and the pesticides that poison the worms and berries Robins eat, take their tolls. The average lifespan of American Robins is two years, but some have lived to 10-13 years.

Stop using insecticides and harsh fertilizers, provide a shallow birdbath and plant a crabapple or serviceberry tree, and your will be rewarded with these lovely American Robins.

When you hear cheery morning singing, take a minute to watch the early bird running across your lawn, grabbing that early worm. It will bring a smile to your face.


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