Monday, January 14, 2013

Robins, Robins Everywhere

A little before noon today, I stepped outside trying to get the dogs to go potty.  It's raining here in the Atlanta area today and they object strenuously to going out when it's wet so it's quite an endeavor.  As I was wasting my time and breath coaxing the furry beasts, the vibration and sound coming from one of the larger red-berried bushes near the fence caught my attention and I had to stand there mesmerized for awhile.

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Every branch was lined with robins!  I'd have to guess there were at least 100 just in the one bush and even more in pine trees behind.

They were chirping and fluttering about and when the whole flock took flight at the same moment... wow!  Many times I've watched for their return in more northern lands as the first harbinger that spring might just come again but I've never seen so many of them in one place at the same time before.  And the sound of their song was so amazing in such a large chorus.

Check out these interesting robin facts from  (The facts are quoted directly, but there's a lot more information about their migration patterns on the web page if you are interested.)
  • All robins are not the same: The vast majority of robins do move south in the winter. However, some stick around — and move around — in northern locations.
  • Robins migrate more in response to food than to temperature. Fruit is the robin's winter food source. As the ground thaws in the spring, they switch to earthworms and insects. While the robins may arrive when temperatures reach 37 degrees, this is because their food becomes available not because the robins themselves need warm temperatures.
  • Robins wander in the winter: Temperatures get colder as winter progresses. Robins need more food when it's cold and more and more of the fruit gets eaten. Robins move here and there in response to diminishing food supplies and harsh weather. If all robins wintered at their breeding latitude, there wouldn't be enough fruit for them all. So robins tend to spread out in the winter in search of fruit. Most hang out where fruit is abundant, but some take the risk of staying farther north where smaller amounts of fruit remain.
  • Robins sing when they arrive on territory: Robins sing when they arrive on their breeding territories. Sometimes robins even sing in winter flocks, due to surging hormones as the breeding season approaches. However, in the majority of cases, robins really do wait to sing until they have reached their territory.
The American Robin, scientifically known as Turdus migratorius (Turdus meaning thrush and migratorius, to go), is a member of the thrush family of birds.  First described in 1766 by Carl Linnaeus, it was named after the European Robin because of it's red breast.  The two species are not closely related as the European variety is from the flycatcher family.

Robins are one of the most populous birds in North America with ranges that are mainly seasonal from northern Canada to central Mexico.  It is the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In the food chain, robins eat small invertebrates like earthworms and beetle grubs along with fruits and berries and they are prey for hawks, larger-sized snakes and cats.

However, I have seen a robin successfully take on a cat!  Hatchlings were just beginning to leave the nest as they learned to fly.  Not all the baby birds took flight on their first try... and the cat perceived some easy pickings as one hopped around in the grass below.  Mama robin saw Lizzie (my old gray cat now 5 years in kitty heaven) coming and commenced a dive bombing mission!!  She flew straight down faster and faster, pulling out of the dive just inches from ducking Lizzie's head, with a loud squawking scream that brought us all running to see what was going on in the back yard.  After the first dive, Lizzie was retreating but the bird kept bombing... getting so close to my head even that I could feel her wings brush against my hair as the scared cat huddled by my feet.  Needless to say, that baby was safe for the next day or so until it got the flight thing figured out.

Robins may be common birds but I enjoy watching them.  They make me happy!

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