Robins

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I grew up in New Jersey and moved to Michigan when I was in high school.  I remember considering the American Robin the first sign of spring.  It was always so exciting to see that first one hopping around on the grass looking for worms. But that has definitely changed.  I see robins all winter long now in SE Michigan.  They tend to travel in huge flocks in the winter and I mostly see them eat berries (I always wondered what they ate when there are no worms around!)

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So, has the migration pattern of robins really changed over time, or not?  I’m not really sure.  What I’ve read seems to indicate that robins migrate more in response to food availability than in response to cold–so some years they may stay in colder areas more than other years.  Furthermore, the following is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website:

Although robins are considered harbingers of spring, many American Robins spend the whole winter in their breeding range. But because they spend more time roosting in trees and less time in your yard, you’re much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions.

This suggests they may have always tended to stay around in the winter (as long as food was available), I just didn’t see them as much.  I’d be interested to know if others believe they are staying in cold climates more during the winter, or if it just seems that way.

Whether the migration pattern has changed or not, I’m glad to be seeing them more in the winter.  Those red breasts are so beautiful when photographed against the snow!

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The European Robin is so different than our American Robin.  Here is a picture of one from Wikipedia.  I would love to photograph one of those sometime!

Spring is coming.  I know it’s hard to believe with the brutal winter we’ve been having.  But the calendar doesn’t lie and it has to be spring eventually.  The robins are already here.  So now I’m waiting for the Red-Winged Blackbird as the new harbinger of spring.  When I hear this call, its time to get excited!  In the meantime, my front yard still looks like this 😦

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2 Responses to Robins

  1. John Blair says:

    Carol, I too had wondered if seeing Robins during the winter was something new or not, as all my growing up years, their arrival was considered an event of early spring. I was born and raised here in SE MI and grew up on a large lot with both woods and fields and from a young age, I knew all the typical birds in our area. That being said, I can say I never, ever remember seeing a Robin in this area in winter until sometime in the mid-90’s (I think 1995) when I was an engineer at Ford. Around the perimeter of the Ford test track in Dearborn, there’s some variety of crab apple trees planted that overwinter with red crab apples and one day at lunch, I was shocked to see Robins there feeding on them! Ever since then, I have been seeing Robin’s occasionally in winter in this area. Perhaps there are some that have always been here but it seems like I would have seen them in my first 35 years of life. BTW, your photos of Robins are outstanding 🙂

    • Thank you John. I had the same experience–I never saw a robin in the winter and can clearly remember being shocked the first time I did. I really think they must be staying around more than they used to. Just like those Carolina Wrens–I know I never saw them at all and now there is a pair in my yard every day!

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