American Robin

Look for

The robin’s simple yet evocative cheerily-cheerio song meshes well with the thunk of basketballs and the drone of lawnmowers in suburban neighborhoods all across North America; yet, they also hide their nests in mountaintop spruce and fir forests, where they are as wary as any hermit thrush. Males sport brick-red breasts and black heads with broken white spectacles and a streaked white throat and lower belly. Females are paler.

Listen for

Song is a rich, slightly hoarse warble: cheery-o, churlee, cheery-up! Calls include a loud see-seet-tut-tut-tut! and a thin, soft, down-slurred tseeeet! as an alarm call.

Find It

Almost all North Americans have grown up having a fairly intimate acquaintance with a thrush. The American robin, the largest and most widespread and most abundant North American thrush, has followed the watered lawn—with its plentiful earthworm prey base—westward across the continent. Only parts of Florida, Texas, and the Southwest, where the soil is too sandy to support the introduced common earthworm, lack robins. The robin is primarily a bird of lawns with trees and shrubs, though it also breeds in high mountain forests near clear-cuts or openings. Few other species show its adaptability to diverse habitats, from landscaped parking lot islets to dense, secluded forests. Migration is marked in northern climes, but is less so in southern ones.

Feed It

Running, then standing erect and motionless on a lawn, the robin watches and listens for earthworms and other invertebrates crawling in the grass. A quick stab captures them, sometimes resulting in a tug-of-war with a recalcitrant night crawler. Robins flock in fall to exploit fruiting trees and shrubs, fluttering and giggling as they reach for food.

Nesting Behavior

Most bird watchers are familiar with the robin’s sturdy mud-and-grass cup, often nestled in an evergreen, a climbing vine, on a horizontal branch, or even on a windowsill. The female incubates three to four eggs for 12 to 14 days. Adults can be seen foraging with bills full of earthworms as soon as the young hatch. Young leave the nest, barely able to flutter, on about the thirteenth day. They are distinguished by their spotted, whitish breasts and reedy, begging calls. The male feeds them for another three weeks, while the female usually starts a second brood.

WOW!

Robins are often considered the first sign of spring, but not all robins leave their home range in winter, so their appearance is not really a sign of spring.

Listen to the American robin:

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  • itasara

    Three years ago there was a robin nest on my second-story spelt. I watch the babies grow I never saw them fly off! I was so hoping they would return because I know they tend to do that. They did not come back last year I think I saw them on my neighbors roof looking this way and I’m guessing they were the same Robins. This year they started a nest just outside where the original spout nest was but on a lower bush and I was so happy but I don’t think they finished the nest and I don’t see they have came back, at least not yet. I’m disappointed! I didn’t think it was the greatest place for a nest maybe too close to the lawnmowers coming by at times? It has also been very rainy and maybe they had to go elsewhere for the time being. What can I do to attract them? Anything? I love to watch them and I love to listen to them sing!

    • Dawn Hewitt

      Hi Itasara, Robins often pick bad places to nest: too close to the ground, too close to the front door, on a porch where they are aggressive to humans who need to pass by. The best thing you can do to encourage them is to provide shrubs and vegetation for a safe nest and other such secure locations for a safe nest. Dawn Hewitt, Bird Watcher’s Digest.

      • itasara

        thanks for advice. So as I said I saw no activity. Yesterday I threw some mealy worms near where I saw the nest. I only peaked but didn’t touch anything. I saw a small next nestled in the bush. Next second huge Robin flew out; must be buried deep into the nest! Today I was watching and several times I saw nothing. Again later I went to my window and there was the Robin. I think he came out of those bushes, but not positive.I threw some blueberries out my window near that spot where the nest is. Haven’t seen anything since. I guess if there is a Robin in there that eventually if there are eggs that hatch I’ll see more activity. My husband says he’ll avoid mowing there for now (if we don’t have anymore rain!) There are a bunch of little brown birds that fly by there and land on bushes near by, so hard to say if the Robin will decided to stay! These little brown birds (may be sparrows not sure) like the mealy worms a lot. Haven’t seen the Robin go after them yet.

        • itasara

          A couple days ago my husband took a peak from outside the bush. He didn’t see anything then again Robin flew out. So I assume they are still there. They don’t make it easy! Hopefully if there are eggs that hatch I’ll see the dad bringing worms to and fro

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