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American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

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Cheery American Robin

What was the first bird you noticed as a child? Perhaps you heard the cheery song of the American Robin coming from the top of a nearby tree. Or maybe you saw a robin running and pausing on the lawn, cocking its head before extracting a fat, juicy worm from the ground. The robin is often the... read more »

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American Robin, Valiant Challenger

The male American Robin - fiercely territorial - belts out its distinctive cheery song to defend its breeding territory from invasion by other robins. Sometimes, the robin sees its own reflection as an interloper and challenges the “invader” over and over, even to the point of exhaustion or... read more »

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American Robin Babies Afoot

After hatching, baby robins spend up to 15 days in the nest. By July, many young American Robins have left the nest, or fledged. But they aren't ready to make it entirely on their own yet, and follow their parents around, learning to fend for themselves. Outside of the breeding season, robins... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Is It the Same Robin?

Autumn brings robins to feed on tree fruit and berries. Are the robins you see now the same robins that you saw in your garden last summer? Some robins do remain year 'round. Others spend only the winter, having nested farther north. John James Audubon may have been the first to band birds, in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, nesting

How the Robin Got Its Name

When English settlers in the New World encountered the American Robin, they saw in it a reflection of the bird they knew as the Robin in the old country. So they called this one a robin, too. Today the American and British Ornithological Unions together determine how a bird is named. For a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology

Why Robin Has a Red Breast

According to the Suquamish story, many years ago, South Wind blew hot and long. The animals banded together and found the source of the wind - a fortress atop a rocky mountain. At night, the animals crept into the fortress and vanquished the men who protected the South Wind. Afterward, the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Evening's Last Singer

After sunset, the American Robin sings faster and more elaborate versions of his daytime songs. Some birds have more than 100 songs! They time their singing to the intensity of light as well as to the time of sunset. When dark clouds roll in, they get rolling earlier. Males sing mainly to attract... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

First Songster of the Day

Why do birds start their songs so early in the morning? Many are announcing that they've made it through the night. Some males grab the first opportunity to remind others of their territories and to fend off other males. Certain migratory males signal their location and availability to females... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Robins and Berries in Winter

It's mid-winter, and a passing flock of robins suddenly drops out of the sky. A moment ago, the yard was empty of birds, but now it's full. They settle in a bush laden with fruits. When the robins pass over a fruiting shrub, those red berries signal like a neon sign on a restaurant. Time to stop... read more »

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How Long Does a Robin Live

The mortality rate is high in our familiar songbirds. For robins, it's around 50% each year once young birds have fledged. If a robin survives to midwinter, it lives an average of 1.7 years after that. The oldest robins in your yard might be about six years old, although one banded bird lived... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, science

Angry Birds

Every day, nearly 3.5 million hours are spent playing Rovio's award-winning game, "Angry Birds." We don't know of too many birds whose eggs are stolen by pigs, but no bird is happy when its eggs are stolen. You might hear an American Robin, sounding its alarm. An angry Peregrine Falcon protects... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor

Anting: Avian Spa Treatment?

On a warm, sunny day, an American Robin flops on the ground, wings outstretched and tail splayed behind. The robin sits astride an anthill, and the ants are swarming over its body! This is called "anting," and probably has to do with transferring the ants' formic acid to the bird's body. This... read more »

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Baby Birds Move Out of the Nest

After they leave the nest but before they take flight, many baby birds - especially robins and flickers - spend time on or near the ground. If you see such a baby bird, and your first thought is to "rescue" it, the better thing to do is let it be. Protect it from cats. Then watch from a distance,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, rehabilitation

Birding without Sight

It can be difficult to identify a bird by its appearance, and just as challenging to do so by its song. But birding by ear is a great way to get to know birds. A blind birder in Kitsap County, Washington, was puzzled by a haunting bird song. She thought it might be a special song of the American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear

John Burroughs II

John Burroughs, one of the masters of American nature writing, wrote "The birds do indeed begin with the day. The farmer who is in the field at work while he can yet see stars catches their first matin hymns. In the longest June days the robin strikes up about half past three o'clock..."... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

The Early Bird

We've all heard that the early bird gets the worm. But research shows that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. Socially dominant birds stay lean (and agile at avoiding predators) during the day, and then stoke up later, before a cold night. Subordinate birds have to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Birds and Berries

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Our little mountain-ash is all alive with [birds.] A dozen robins on it at once ... plucking the berries... A robin will swallow half a dozen berries, at least, in rapid succession..." If you, too, enjoy watching birds eat berries, then consider planting trees and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

Nesting Niches

American Robins (like this male seen here with its young), House Finches, and Song Sparrows may all nest within one small garden. By selecting different nesting strata, the species avoid competing for the same nesting sites. If you plant your garden in multiple layers – trees both short and tall,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening, nesting

Nest Building

Want to try building a nest? Consider this... An average American Robin weighs less than three ounces. An average person weighs 170 pounds, or 1,000 times as much as a robin. A robin's nest, made of grass and mud, weighs about seven ounces, so yours will weigh 450 pounds. You'll need to collect... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Another BirdNote Quiz

This quiz features - an American Robin ...- an Olive-sided Flycatcher, like this one ... - a Red-tailed Hawk ...- a Steller's Jay, which you're most likely to hear west of the Rockies ... - and a Blue Jay, usually seen east of the Rockies. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Shakespeare's Birthday

April 23 is the birthday of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was pretty well acquainted with - among one or two other things - birds. More than forty strut, twitter, shriek, sing, and soar through his works. But the bird he knew as a Robin Redbreast is not the bird we call a "robin" in the United... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Early Spring Songs (Washington State)

In March, we welcome the lengthening days and the renewal of bird song. Among the earliest spring singers in the Northwest is this House Finch, whose sweet, jumbled song carries along city blocks and rocky canyons. And spring songs are breaking out all over the country. Listen to the song of the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Early Spring Songs (SE Alaska)

In March, we welcome the lengthening days and the renewal of bird song. Among the earliest spring singers in the SE Alaska are American Dipper (left), American Robin, and American Tree Sparrow. Listen to the songs of these early spring songsters and thousands of others at Cornell University's... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Early Spring Songs (Bay-area, California version)

In March, we welcome the lengthening days and the renewal of bird song. Among the earliest spring singers in California are American Robin (left), Fox Sparrow, and Wrentit. Listen to the songs of these birds, plus thousands of others at Cornell University's Macaulay Library website. Learn more... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Helping Birds Survive Window Strikes

A hawk dives into your yard, and a frightened robin slams against a window, mistaking the transparent rectangle for an escape route. But you can help. Fold its wings gently over its body in their natural position, grasp the bird lightly, and wrap it loosely several times in the towel. Keep the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  rehabilitation

American Robins Are Exceptional Singers

As singers go, American Robins are exceptional. They’re often the first birds to sing in the morning, and the last you’ll hear in the evening. While their average song strings fewer than a dozen short phrases together and lasts only a few seconds, robins sometimes sing for minutes without a pause... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

Voices and Vocabularies - Robin's Evening Song

During the day, an American Robin, a member of the thrush family, sings a lovely, familiar song of rich phrases. But as the sun begins to set, robin song takes on a different character. From sunset until dark, a robin adds ethereal whispered notes to its carol, creating a song of remarkable grace... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

61 Tons of Robins!

In winter, flocks of American Robins spend the night together. Typically, a few dozen to a few hundred birds roost communally in trees or an old barn, or under a bridge. But larger robin roosts can number in the thousands, or even tens of thousands! In 2007, observers near St. Petersburg, Florida... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, migration, science

From Egg-laying to Hatching and Beyond

Waterfowl like this Muscovy duckling spend up to 30 days in the egg, so they’re able to walk, swim, and feed themselves as soon as they hatch. We call these chicks precocial. By contrast, the chicks of most songbirds spend less time maturing in the egg. They must continue to develop in the nest... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, nesting, ornithology

The Most Abundant Birds in North America

By August, most birds in North America have finished nesting, bringing legions of new birds into the world. These Mourning Doves, which prosper in many environments, are among the most abundant birds on the continent. Their population is estimated at 350 million! In second place is the American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, science

Sparrows Kick, Robins Pick

If you watch backyard birds, you will likely see some characteristic behaviors. One example is "foraging" styles — the behaviors that a bird uses to find food. Some birds, such as sparrows, are famous for their "double-scratch" behavior. The bird jumps forward and back, quite quickly...twice. In... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Speech and Birdsong - The Genetics of Vocal Learning

Some birds are born with the ability to sing. Others learn to sing while they're young — just like humans, who must learn to speak. It turns out that vocal learning in songbirds and humans may have more in common than anyone suspected. Recent DNA research reveals that songbirds and humans share a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Robins Raise a Brood - In a Hurry

When it comes to raising a family, American Robins have got it down. Approximately eight days after the male and female mate, the female builds the nest.  A few days later, she lays eggs. She sits on the eggs for 18 hours a day, and the eggs hatch in about three weeks. Both parents feed the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Robins Are Very Choosy Nesters

When scientists looked at climate data for more than 8,500 robins’ nests in the US, they found that robins will nest only if the mean noon temperature is between 45 and 65 degrees. But even more critical is relative humidity: it needs to be around 50 percent in the middle of the day. What’s so... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  backyard sanctuary, ecology, nesting, science

Earthworms - A Superfood in Cold Storage

This American Robin has caterpillars and an earthworm in its beak. But which food source is the real prize? Everyday earthworms are higher in protein than beef or chicken. You’d have to eat about a pound of soybeans to equal the protein in just three ounces of earthworms. They’re also high in... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  ecology

Light and Song - Sparks in Winter

Even in winter, some birds — including Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches, and American Robins — greet the sunrise with song. We normally hear the dawn chorus in springtime, when birds sing to define territory and attract mates. But birds don’t breed by warmth alone. Day length is a far more... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  breeding display
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