American Robins: Holy Springtime, Batman!

American RobinI saw my first robin of Spring today, hopping around in between the blooming crocus in my back yard.

It may interest some of you out there that when we Yanks speak about the first robin of Spring and the Brits talk about the robins at Christmas, we are talking about two different birds. It seems that a robin is not a robin is not a robin. Of course the question then becomes “What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen robin? What do you mean? An American or European robin?” Well, maybe that is a question for another day.

The American robin is a victim of memory moniker misappropriation. Apparently settlers who were brave enough to make a 3 month sea journey, face native populations of unknown hostilities and wrenchingly carve out a life in a wild land had no energy left over to come up with original names for the animals they saw. When the first European settlers dared to hazard these rocky shores, they saw a little bird who reminded them of their own red breasted robin at home. So, they just said, “Screw it, I am tired. We’ll just call it a robin.”

While the robin is considered the harbinger of spring when it “returns”, it actually does not leave the area in the winter. The little American robin has once again been mis-classified. They do not migrate very far and over-winter in pretty much the same places that they summer in. They simply hide more in the winter, preferring to gather in large flocks in the woods, perhaps for warmth and perhaps to catch up on gossip from the summer. The fact that robins can produce 3 different broods in a single summer means that there is a whole lot of juicy “who’s sleeping with who” gossip to catch up on when the weather gets cold.

When the weather warms up, the flocks break up and the robin returns to our back yards and we squeal in delight because the robin has “come back”. Yeah, that trip from the MetroParks must have been exhausting.

Robins eat all sorts of tasty things. Everything from worms to fruit. BTW, in case you needed yet another reason not to use Chem-the-hell-out-of-it-Lawn, the robins you see in your back yard eat the worms from your back yard. If you use pesticides on your lawn, it gets in the worms, which get eaten by the robins and the robins die from pesticide poisoning. Tell that to the ChemLawn guy, the next time you see him. Just scream “You are killing Spring, you bastard!” I am sure it will at least freak him out enough that he will leave the area immediately.

Even if the robin does not really “come back” and has been here all along, it is still nice to see her once again gracing my back yard. It is still a sign that warm weather is just around the corner.

14 thoughts on “American Robins: Holy Springtime, Batman!
  1. Excellent post, I do miss the Robins now that we relocated to Arizona.

    Thanks for the post I really enjoyed your post.

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  2. We have the opposite going on…we are much less likely to see a robin March through September. I’m not sure where they hide out for the summer!

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  3. Melanie on

    Every year around Xmas time a big flock of Robins land in our crabapple tree to pig out on the fruit. They hang around for a few days and then POOF…they’re gone.

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  4. They grip the husk! ha
    Robins are popping up all around here in Southern Ontario, too.

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  5. Holly on

    I started seeing (and hearing!) them in Old Brooklyn last week. The return of birdsong always makes me happy!

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  6. Wow, I never realized that killed the birds! Why would people do that if it kills sweet little birdies? I am on a crusade…

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  7. I noticed the first robins around here a couple of weeks ago and man, are they chubby!
    I adore robins and it was with mixed feelings that I watched one hoppy hoppy hoppy around the yard then slam! go for the kill with a big juicy worm. I adore worms, too.

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  8. I noticed the first robins around here a couple of weeks ago here in CO and man, are they chubby!
    I adore robins and it was with mixed feelings that I watched one hoppy hoppy hoppy around the yard then slam! go for the kill with a big juicy worm. I adore worms, too.

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  9. You may not believe this But I’ve been watching Robins on and off since the beginning of March-no snow on the ground . . . Robins appear.

    Snow cover, Robins are gone.

    With such a short distance between us, less than 90 miles this seems a little odd, unless you’re “snowpack” has been deeper and hanging on longer.

    btw . . . no shortage of deer this year, in fact the most traffic we’ve seen in the 4 years we’ve been here. The hunters need to get busy in Tuscarawas county this fall.

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  10. gus on

    I have two comments on this post: 1)I read, some time back, that robins can be fooled by early warm weather. The true harbinger of spring is the Red Winged Blackbird. When they show up the truly cold weather should be gone.
    2)On a more serious note, regarding the lawn chemicals, we had a Nile Virus scare a few years ago. Of most concern were the scores of dead crows. After many were sent to the state lab for testing, most were found to die from lawn chemicals. People need to stop worrying about having a perfect lawn. We all should be concerned about the consequences of our actions, and don’t get me started about Terrorism and gasoline!

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  11. I’m still laughing about your suggestion to scream at the ChemLawn guy and freak him out. That’s great! Seriously though I never understood the need for a lawn; I grew up in a backyard that was one immense maple tree and the rest of it garden. All those lawns in suburbia and I’ve never seen anyone sitting out on their lawn! (If you’re not even going to use it, why not just roll out the astroturf and be done, right?) Poor robins.

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  12. Faith on

    Robins eating worms doesn’t sound so good for the garden, though I doubt they deplete the earthworm population. What does sound go is that they also eat grubs, which the grubs may not like, but I think it’s good.

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  13. I really like your style of writing, and enjoyed your post very much! I had recently learned that the robin is not actually a sign of spring, but had never considered the effects of lawn treatments on their food supply. I’ll have to let my neighbours know…they use the Weedman. Thanks!

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  14. Hanna on

    Neil Pedersen – Thanks for stopping by! I suppose the lose of robins is the price of warm weather. *sigh* I think I might be able to leave behind robins for warm weather. 😉

    Leslie – They are “gettin’ busy” with those three broods.

    Melanie – That must be a lovely sight to see.

    Amy – I am glad someone got that joke. :)

    Holly – Isn’t it great to hear it in the morning!

    Jean Ann – Isn’t it sad? I hope more people learn about this.

    Valerie – I read that they mostly eat worms in the morning. So maybe you could watch in the afternoon and you don’t have to see the massacre.

    Rick Anderson – I may have just missed them, being out of town and all, so I could believe you have seen them. Damn deer never leave.

    gus – I will have to watch for that bird. Isn’t it sad that so many birds suffer from this?

    Margo – I agree. Lawns should be for using, not chemicals.

    Faith – Actually, there is supposedly a surplus of worms (http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/2007/03/worm-crisis-solution-is-to-make-them.html) so robins do what robins do for the best. But it is a bonus that they eat those grub. :)

    chey – Thanks for stopping by!

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