American Robin

American Robin
American Robin
Turdus migratorius
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Photographer
 

Robin with Chicks in NestAmerican Robin
Turdus migratorius
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
Lee Karney, Photographer
 

Robin with Chicks in NestRobin with Chicks in Nest
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
James C. Leopold, Photographer

The American robin with its abundance, red breast, and loud song is one of the most recognizable backyard birds in North America. For many of us the robin – or Turdus migratorius – is also thought of as a herald of spring. So why is it that we still occasionally see them in our wintry Utah backyards?

Seasonal bird migration can be triggered by a number of things, but the two main drivers are food supply and nesting habitat. In spring and summer the birds move northward to take advantage of insect hatches, budding plants, and the plethora of nesting sites. Then, as food sources dwindle in fall, the birds move southward to areas where the necessary resources are still plentiful.

The distances birds migrate in order to access these resources can range widely. Therefore, birds are generally categorized as being short-, medium-, or long-distance migrants. Robins are considered short-distance migrants. While their range spans all of Canada and the United States extending down into Mexico, most robins do not travel far from their breeding grounds in winter and may not leave at all. Only the populations that breed and reside on the edges of this range will migrate seasonally.

The robin’s varied diet and behavioral adaptability are the primary reasons these short-migratory or non-migratory patterns are possible. Robins are preferably ground foragers, feasting on insects and earthworms in the spring and summer months. Yet, during the fall and winter, robins eat a fruit-based diet. They track this seasonal food source in flocks, abandoning their summer individualistic and territorial behavior. These flocks – or roosting aggregates – also help them survive the cold winter temperatures. As a result, robins are able to cope with the ground freezing, the disappearance of their preferred food source, and the harsh winter weather.

Returning to our original question: is the American robin truly a sign of spring here in Utah? Is it strange to see this bird in our backyards during the winter months? The simple answer is no. Robins can be found year round almost anywhere south of Canada. While they may migrate nomadically, staying or leaving areas as weather and snow cover affect their food supply, there could be some keeping us company in Utah all winter.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Anna Bengtson.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy US FWS, Lee Karney, James C. Leopold, Photographers
Text: Anna Bengston

Sources & Additional Reading:

American Robin Profile, Utah Birds http://utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdIndex.htm

American Robin, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_robin/id

American Robin, The Birds of North America Online http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/462/articles/introduction

Studying Migration, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/

Migration Patterns, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/patterns

Where Have all the Robins Gone?, Migration, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/faq/master_folder/migration/document_view

Snow Depth Survey, The Great Backyard Bird Count http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/snow-depth-survey

Winter Robins, The Great Backyard Bird Count http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/is-that-winter-flock-of-robins-in-your-yard-unusual

Robins in Winter

American Robin
American Robin
Turdus migratorius
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Photographer
 

Robin with Chicks in NestAmerican Robin
Turdus migratorius
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
Lee Karney, Photographer
 

Robin with Chicks in NestRobin with Chicks in Nest
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
James C. Leopold, Photographer

The American robin with its abundance, red breast, and loud song is one of the most recognizable backyard birds in North America. For many of us the robin – or Turdus migratorius – is also thought of as a herald of spring. So why is it that we still occasionally see them in our wintry Utah backyards?

Seasonal bird migration can be triggered by a number of things, but the two main drivers are food supply and nesting habitat. In spring and summer the birds move northward to take advantage of insect hatches, budding plants, and the plethora of nesting sites. Then, as food sources dwindle in fall, the birds move southward to areas where the necessary resources are still plentiful.

The distances birds migrate in order to access these resources can range widely. Therefore, birds are generally categorized as being short-, medium-, or long-distance migrants. Robins are considered short-distance migrants. While their range spans all of Canada and the United States extending down into Mexico, most robins do not travel far from their breeding grounds in winter and may not leave at all. Only the populations that breed and reside on the edges of this range will migrate seasonally.

The robin’s varied diet and behavioral adaptability are the primary reasons these short-migratory or non-migratory patterns are possible. Robins are preferably ground foragers, feasting on insects and earthworms in the spring and summer months. Yet, during the fall and winter, robins eat a fruit-based diet. They track this seasonal food source in flocks, abandoning their summer individualistic and territorial behavior. These flocks – or roosting aggregates – also help them survive the cold winter temperatures. As a result, robins are able to cope with the ground freezing, the disappearance of their preferred food source, and the harsh winter weather.

Returning to our original question: is the American robin truly a sign of spring here in Utah? Is it strange to see this bird in our backyards during the winter months? The simple answer is no. Robins can be found year round almost anywhere south of Canada. While they may migrate nomadically, staying or leaving areas as weather and snow cover affect their food supply, there could be some keeping us company in Utah all winter.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Anna Bengtson.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy US FWS, Lee Karney, James C. Leopold, Photographers
Text: Anna Bengston

Sources & Additional Reading:

American Robin Profile, Utah Birds http://utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdIndex.htm

American Robin, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_robin/id

American Robin, The Birds of North America Online http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/462/articles/introduction

Studying Migration, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/

Migration Patterns, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/patterns

Where Have all the Robins Gone?, Migration, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/faq/master_folder/migration/document_view

Snow Depth Survey, The Great Backyard Bird Count http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/snow-depth-survey

Winter Robins, The Great Backyard Bird Count http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/is-that-winter-flock-of-robins-in-your-yard-unusual

Robins in Winter

American Robin
American Robin
Turdus migratorius
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Photographer
 

Robin with Chicks in NestAmerican Robin
Turdus migratorius
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
Lee Karney, Photographer
 

Robin with Chicks in NestRobin with Chicks in Nest
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
James C. Leopold, Photographer

The American robin with its abundance, red breast, and loud song is one of the most recognizable backyard birds in North America. For many of us the robin – or Turdus migratorius – is also thought of as a herald of spring. So why is it that we still occasionally see them in our wintry Utah backyards?

Seasonal bird migration can be triggered by a number of things, but the two main drivers are food supply and nesting habitat. In spring and summer the birds move northward to take advantage of insect hatches, budding plants, and the plethora of nesting sites. Then, as food sources dwindle in fall, the birds move southward to areas where the necessary resources are still plentiful.

The distances birds migrate in order to access these resources can range widely. Therefore, birds are generally categorized as being short-, medium-, or long-distance migrants. Robins are considered short-distance migrants. While their range spans all of Canada and the United States extending down into Mexico, most robins do not travel far from their breeding grounds in winter and may not leave at all. Only the populations that breed and reside on the edges of this range will migrate seasonally.

The robin’s varied diet and behavioral adaptability are the primary reasons these short-migratory or non-migratory patterns are possible. Robins are preferably ground foragers, feasting on insects and earthworms in the spring and summer months. Yet, during the fall and winter, robins eat a fruit-based diet. They track this seasonal food source in flocks, abandoning their summer individualistic and territorial behavior. These flocks – or roosting aggregates – also help them survive the cold winter temperatures. As a result, robins are able to cope with the ground freezing, the disappearance of their preferred food source, and the harsh winter weather.

Returning to our original question: is the American robin truly a sign of spring here in Utah? Is it strange to see this bird in our backyards during the winter months? The simple answer is no. Robins can be found year round almost anywhere south of Canada. While they may migrate nomadically, staying or leaving areas as weather and snow cover affect their food supply, there could be some keeping us company in Utah all winter.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Anna Bengtson.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy US FWS, Lee Karney, James C. Leopold, Photographers
Text: Anna Bengston

Sources & Additional Reading:

American Robin Profile, Utah Birds http://utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdIndex.htm

American Robin, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_robin/id

American Robin, The Birds of North America Online http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/462/articles/introduction

Studying Migration, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/

Migration Patterns, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/patterns

Where Have all the Robins Gone?, Migration, Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/faq/master_folder/migration/document_view

Snow Depth Survey, The Great Backyard Bird Count http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/snow-depth-survey

Winter Robins, The Great Backyard Bird Count http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/is-that-winter-flock-of-robins-in-your-yard-unusual

The Occupants on Robin Street

The Occupants on Robin Street

Hi, I’m Dick Hurren from the Bridgerland Audubon society in Cache Valley.

Isn’t it interesting how shopping centers and housing developments are named after things that used to be: Fair Meadows Court, Rustic Drive, White Pines Lane, Riverwoods, Apple blossom Circle. There is one place that is named for its current occupants: Robin Street.

The American Robin is one of the most adapted birds to human development. It is also one of the most recognized. Robin redbreast is found not only by the stream, but in back yards, and city parks. We see them hopping across lawns, cocking their heads to see close up and picking out juicy worms. They also feast on cherries and other fruits. They can be seen and heard high in trees or on house peaks identifying their territory. Think about how they were in the past, pulling worms from a meadow and eating native berries. They actually have it better now.

They interact near us most often during breeding season. Robins build nests in trees or on sheltered ledges and platforms on buildings.

Both parents work to build the nest from sticks, thread, mud, and other available materials. The grass inner lining is soft against a woven-mud-covered bowl. Nest building is completed about 10 days before eggs are laid. The eggs are laid, one per day until a clutch of 3 or 4 fill the nest. The eggs define the pale blue-green color “Robin’s egg blue”.

The female sets on the eggs about two weeks until the young hatch blind and featherless. Mother and more often the father feeds the young. In another two weeks they are fully feathered and trying their wings. While the male feeds the young the female can be building another nest. Robins can produce 2 or 3 broods a year.

The robin’s size and shape is so well known that they are used as a standard to compare other birds.

But its a rough life being a robin. Only 40 percent of the nests built successfully rear a brood. Of the young hatched, 25 percent live through November. Although a robin may live up to 14 years, in any given year, only about half of the robins alive will live until the next year. Lawn chemicals and uncontrolled pets are part of the robin’s equation of life and death. The population of robins turns over on average every 6 years.

Robins roost in groups, except during the season when the females are setting on the nest. Males always roost in groups. After breeding, the nestlings and females join the male flock. Flocks of robins don’t frequent backyards as much in winter as they do in the nesting season. Some robins migrate, but some also live year-round in the same location. Robins remain in flocks until the spring nesting season when they again divide up into pairs and return to parks, back yards and Robin street.

For Wild About Utah I’m Dick Hurren.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service, US Department of the Interior www.nps.gov/prsf/naturescience/american-robin.htm

Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society

For More Information:

http://www.norcrossws.org/html/robins2.htm

Complete Birds of North America, Jonathan Alderfer, ed. National Geographic, 2006

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/NestBox.html

http://www.wild-bird-watching.com/Robins.html

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/warobin.asp

http://wild-birds.suite101.com/article.cfm/where_do_american_robins_nest

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/American_Robin.html