When we think about American Robins, many of us think, “Spring!” But these very common birds are actually around all year long in much of the United States. While some in the north do migrate southward, in many areas, they stick around if there is food to be found. Their behavior changes in the spring though, which is probably why we tend to notice them more as the days start to lengthen and the weather warms. I thought today, the first day of spring, would be a good day to share some interesting tidbits about robins.
Interesting American Robin Facts
* Robins may seem to all look alike, but did you know that male robins tend to have darker heads? A female American Robin’s head is more grey than black and there is less contrast between head and back than you see on a male. (This isn’t a hard and fast rule though, as you can still have lighter headed males and darker headed females . . ..)
* American Robins are named after European robins but they are only distantly related. American Robins are in the thrush family while their European cousins are in the Old World flycatcher family.
* Robins are known for “the early bird, gets the worm.” Apparently, the reason that robins get up early to go worm hunting is that worms tend to be up near the surface early in the day or late in the afternoon. As the day gets hotter, worms tend to go deeper underground to stay cool.
* Anyone who has spent time watching an American Robin can tell you that they like to run short distances across an open lawn, pause and then run on again. The pause has been thought to be about listening for a worm, but apparently they actually are looking for a worm.
* After breeding season is over, American Robins form large flocks in the fall and travel around together all winter long. They may not have gone far; they are just searching for food in different parts of the landscape. During cold months, with fewer insects and worms to be found, robins tend to be on the ground less and high up in the trees more, eating berries.
* Yep. While you might think of robins as worm eaters, they actually eat berries year round. Berries make up about sixty percent of their diet. They also eat lots of bugs in the warm summer months, including beetles, grubs and caterpillars and even small snails and of course, earthworms.
* As temperatures rise and fall, the sugars in berries left on the vine or bush can ferment. When robins and other birds eat large quantities of fermented berries, they can get drunk. This is thought to be why you’ll sometimes hear of flocks of tipsy birds doing things like suicidal attacks on cars driving down the road.
* While you won’t find them visiting your sunflower seed feeders, robins will be happy to enjoy your birdbath.
* Researchers think that American Robins are actually more abundant now than before European colonists arrived in the United States. Over the centuries since, people have cut down forests and inadvertently brought European earthworms into areas that were previously devoid of them. And we’ve created large swaths of lawn, ideal areas for robins to find food. All of our relentless digging also creates sources of mud for their nest building.
* Of course, pesticides used on these very lawns where robins hunt for worms can poison them. And outdoor roaming cats (which are themselves an invasive non-native species) hunt neighborhood birds, especially those on the ground, and so can also make life very difficult for them.
* American Robins, like Northern Cardinals, are often so territorial during nesting periods of the year that they will attack reflections of themselves. If you have such a bird repeatedly attacking your windows or your car mirrors, covering the outside of the reflective surface will stop the behavior, which is better for your nerves and also better for the bird, who is wasting time fighting a rival reflection instead of going about his or her business of nesting and raising young.
* As spring arrives, flocks of robins split up. Males settle into and defend territories and begin to sing loudly to attract females. This behavior, along with their spending more time out in the open on the ground, makes them more noticeable to people who see them as a sign of spring.