AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
DESCRIPTION: The American Robin is part of the Thrush family. It has a dark brown head and a brown neck, back and wings. The throat is white with brown streaks. The breast and belly are burnt orange. The rump is white. There is an intermittent white circle around the eye, which is black. The bill is yellow with a dark tip. The legs are pinkish grey. The female has duller colors and is slightly smaller than the male. Juveniles have spotted breasts. This bird is about 28 cm (11 inches) long. There are several subspecies.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Turdus-migratorius – American robins sing very well, early in the morning and late at night, sometimes even during the night.
NAME: The name ‘Robin’ has a French origin and is a diminutive of ‘Robert’. Then the English attributed that name to many birds with a red breast (Choate). The Latin name ‘Turdus’ means ‘thrush’, and ‘migratorius’ refers to the migratory status of this species (which actually does not migrate all the time).
HABITAT: Woodlands, urban areas (lawns, parks), even the tundra.
DIET: In the summer, mostly insects, earthworms and other invertebrates. These birds also eat a lot of fruit and berries year-round. When foraging on the ground, they take a few rapid steps, then stop abruptly and slightly bend their head to listen to the sound of an earthworm moving underground. They then will strike their prey with precision, pulling it out little tugs at a time, to prevent the worm from breaking up and burying its broken part back into the ground.
NESTING: The nest is built by the female in a shrub or a tree (usually) in a well-concealed area. It is made of a mix of plant material and feathers, solidified with mud. An average of four turquoise eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female. Both parents feed the young.
The nests of this bird can be parasitized by the eggs of the Brown-headed Cowbird, but the parents are usually able to reject them.
American robins sometimes build their nests on or near human-made structures. This one mother robin decided that a Christmas wreath on a house was a good spot to start a family. And here’s a story about American robins building their nest in a BBQ. Also see below photo of American robins in their nest under a house deck.
DISTRIBUTION: The American robin breeding range covers most of Canada and Alaska, including parts of the tundra. It is a year-round resident in most of the USA and some parts of Eastern Canada. Its wintering range is in Florida and Mexico.
ON PEI: The American robin is very common on Prince Edward Island almost year-round. In the winter, its presence depends on the snow cover and the availability of food.
CONSERVATION: Because of the widespread range and the high numbers of this thrush species (more than 300 million), it is not considered at risk.
NOTES: The proverb ‘The Early Bird Catches The Worm’ is inspired by the American robin’s early morning singing and foraging activity.
Territory defense: I once observed an American robin repeatedly hitting a basement window. The bird was seeing its reflection in the window pane and thinking it was a rival on its territory.
West Nile Virus: The American robin carries this virus and can live longer with it than other species such as Crows and Jays. Because of this, it has time to infect more disease-carrying mosquitoes.
The American robin is the state bird of Michigan, Connecticut and Wisconsin.
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/robin.htm (New Hampshire PBS)
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/american-robin (Missouri Department of Conservation)
In this first video an American robin can be heard singing in the early morning:
This American robin below has a very specific call when holding food (such as a worm) in its bill (how can they do both at the same time without dropping the food?), as if to say ‘dinner is ready!’
Below is an American robin self-preening while well-sheltered in a white spruce.