The Robin – An Early Bird

by, Jo Carol Hebert

Robin Red-breast, why do you sing?

Snow’s on the ground; and it’s not yet Spring! 

Move Over, ‘Punxsutawney Phil’

Although the famous groundhog is a fun, cultural game to play about predicting spring, a real harbinger of spring is actually the American Robin.

This large, common songbird, ‘cocking’ his head, and hopping around in your yard is a sure sign that winter is breathing its last frosty breath.

To Migrate Or Not To Migrate?

Some Robins do migrate (fly south for the winter); but some are ‘very territorial’ homesteaders that stake their claim in year-’round areas, which they guard ferociously against other Robin intruders.

Robins are very able to sustain cold weather. Plumping their plumage (feathers) which gives them a fat and round look, works to keep them warm from chilly breezes. They roost in flocks in trees that can shelter thousands of birds.

Winter weather makes their favorite worms and insects scarce, but they are happy with seeds, nuts, fruits, or the fermented berries of late winter. (Sometimes, the berries make them a little dizzy).

 Did You Know?

  • Robins lay light blue eggs, which is a color called ‘’robin-egg blue’
  • Robins are in the ‘thrush’ family of birds that include ‘bluebirds’
  • The early colonists named the ‘American’ Robin after the ‘European’ Robin
  • The Robin is the state bird of Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Michigan
  • The Robin is the national bird of Britain
  • The American Robin is also at home in Mexico, Canada, and Alaska
  • Cowbirds lay their eggs in robin nests

Being a Robin

You can recognize a Robin by the brick red or orange stomach (European) contrasting with gray/brown bodies. The male has a brightly colored belly, while the female is a duller rust red. They are a large bird, up to 11” long with a wingspan up to 16”.

Male Robins sing in loud, fluid sounds, like: “Cheerily”, ”cheer-up, “cheerio”, and a rapid ‘tut-’tut’-tut’. Females can make clacking sounds with their beaks when their nests are threatened, and sharp call notes, like “yeep”/”peep”.

Robins build nests shaped like a bowl, using grass, twigs and sometimes string and ribbons they find. Mother sits on the 3-4 eggs (called a clutch) for 14 days. Father guards the nest. The chicks hatch and stay in the nest for 14 days. When they leave the nest, the fledglings stay on the ground close to their parents. In two weeks, they fly away.

Urban Robins

Being very adaptable, Robins are seen worldwide in all environments, including gardens, parks, fields, pine and shrub forests, and cold ‘tundra’. 

They also do not mind the bright lights and noises of human activity in the city. Because of these unnatural elements, urban robins sing earlier in the day – before dawn, and their songs are more high pitched to rise above the noise.

‘Early Bird’ Word Game

If the early bird catches (the worm), and the early fish catches (the worm), then:

The early frog catches (the fly).

The early lion catches (the zebra)

The early rat catches (the cheese).

The early cat catches (the rat).

The early dog catches (the cat).

The early rabbit catches (the carrot).

The early bear catches (the honey).

The early squirrel catches (the nuts).

Can you think of other things an ‘early animal’ might catch . . . ?

*Tell someone three things you learned about Robins.

Robins are really ‘for the birds’ and for curious, Smarty Pants, kids!

Categories: Beaks & Bills

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