May 2016 Bird of the Month

American Robin

American Robin 1 Cover(Click on images to enlarge them.)

The American Robin – the firAmerican Robin 6st sign of spring, in the minds of many people.  “I saw my first Robin!” we proclaim with joy. We look for this busy bird as the snow melts, hoping that it is a more predictable harbinger of the season to come than the rodent who is celebrated on February 2.

 

American Robins are often found in grassy lawns, gardens and other open areas, running along and pecking at the ground for a nice tasty earthworm as soon as the ground thaws.

 

American Robin 4Like April’s Bird of the Month, the Eastern Bluebird, the American Robin is in the thrush family.  The Robin is the largest of North America’s thrushes. Robins can be found year round throughout the United States, and they breed far into the northern reaches of the North American continent.

Though some Robins may migrate short distances, many stay put. So, though Robins may not be as conspicuous in the northern part of the U.S. during the winter months, if you look carefully in trees, you may just find some roosting. While living in Michigan for several years, I often saw Robins underneath the big spruce trees in the yard, even in snowy weather.

 

American Robins and a WaxwingOn a dreary day last winter, I looked out the window to see a tree full of American Robins. It is a wonderful sight, with promise of spring! 

Challenge Question: Can you find the one bird that is NOT a Robin in this image?

 

 

While American Robins are often found in large flocks, running along the ground or in trees, I have had one lone daily visitor to my feeders for the past several months. Even as I saw several others pecking along in the yards across the street (I don’t have a grassy area in my space), my trusty one came by every day to sample from a variety of feeders.

American Robin and PB 1Just don’t tell this one that peanut butter is not on the experts’ list of preferred food for American Robins! I first saw it trying to act like a Yellow-rumped Warbler, suspended in air while grabbing peanut butter from a pine cone. I watched it “practice till perfect” so that it could grab a large bite with each try.

 

 

 

 

American Robin heading for PBIt soon found the dedicated peanut butter feeder and now comes to eat each day. (I have since replaced the small dowel with a longer one, because I worried about it getting PB all over its wings.)

This year, several other species discovered the peanut butter, too, including Carolina Chickadees, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Gray Catbirds and more. So, instead of taking the feeder in once the Yellow-rumped Warblers migrate north in the spring, I’m still searching for BOGO deals on peanut butter each week!

 

My Robins also really like suet, dried meal worms and the fruit-nut-seed mix I put out in a tray feeder, too.  They are excellent ground feeders, cleaning up what other species scatter.

American Robin on SuetDiet: The iconic image of an American Robin pulling a long earthworm from the ground gives us the first clue as to its diet. Robins eat worms and other invertebrates and insects. They are also fruit-lovers. Eating a wide variety of fruits and berries is what can sustain them through the winter months when bugs and worms aren’t readily available.

 

American Robin and 2 JuviesI’m happy to say that “my” Robin now has a mate, and they both enjoy the buffet.  I look forward to seeing if they bring their young fledglings to feed, as a pair did last season.

In 2015, the Robin pair showed off these two fledglings. Note that young birds are the same size (sometimes bigger) than the adults. The image below shows the more subtle, spotted coloring of the young birds.

Nesting: American Robins generally nest in the protection of a tree, but don’t be surprised if you find a nest in a gutter or tucked into a corner of a covered porch or outdoor light. Nests are made of grasses and tAmerican Robin Fledgling 1wigs and possibly other soft materials the female finds.  Most Americans are familiar with the color “Robin’s egg blue” which describes the lovely pale blue to blue-green color of the eggs. There’s no mistaking an open light blue shell of a recently hatched Robin lying on the ground near a tree…that’s often the only way I’ve known a nest was present!

 

American Robin Fledgling Food CallingFledgling American Robin food calling

American Robin BathingDon’t forget to provide water for drinking and bathing. Your American Robins and other birds will be most appreciative.

I’ve always placed the American Robin in my “visual” mindset and hadn’t really paid attention to its song. Early this year, though, I put on my “listening ears” and recorded a beautiful vocalization.  Now, I know the Robin’s voice whenever I hear it. Watch and listen via this YouTube clip:

American Robin Welcomes Spring

To learn more about these abundant and industrious birds, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website dedicated to the American Robin:

All About Birds: American Robin

You can also find information (and listen to some audio clips of various songs and calls) at Audubon’s website dedicated to the Robin:

American Robin – Audubon

American Robin 5Challenge Answer: There is a Cedar Waxwing in the top middle of the tree.

All photographs on this website are copyright © Sunny Blue Productions, LLC.

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