Critter of the Week: American Robin

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, sent a fun little update to her Knee High Naturalists and we thought we would share it with you – fun for the young ones, but fun for adults too!

Miss Patti exploring the fields with her Knee High Naturalists

Hello, I hope you are noticing the arrival of spring.  Even with the current situation, I walk daily and have been delighted to see spring’s arrival from my neighborhood’s sidewalks.  Trees and daffodils are blooming, birds are chirping spring songs, and at some point the temperatures will warm.

Look for robins working any lawn.  They run, run, run and then stop.  As they tilt their heads they are actually looking for worms/insects since their eyes are on the sides of their heads.  Play the “robin game” in your yard…it’s easy.  Run about and when the caller says “stop” look at the ground to see what you can notice.  What’s hiding in the grass?  Is it easy being a robin? Below is some great information about robins.  Or check out Mass Audubon’s website for additional information about this and other birds:

Critter of the Week:  American Robin: the American Robin is a familiar sight pulling up worms on suburban lawns. Although it’s at home breeding in deep, mature forests, the robin is the most widespread thrush in North American thanks to a tolerance for human-modified habitats.

Description: a large thrush, back and wings gray, underparts red, dark head with white eye crescents. These birds are between 20-28 cm (8-11 in), weigh about 77 grams (2.72 oz) , and have a wingspan of 31-40 cm (12-16 in). If you measured your outstretched arms from fingertip to fingertip – what would your wingspan be?

Sex Differences: sexes look similar; female paler, especially on head.

Sound: song a musical whistled phrase, “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.” Call note a sharp “chup.” Also a very high-pitched thin whistling note. Click here to listen to the sounds of the robin from the The Cornell Lab.

Conservation Status: populations appear stable or increasing throughout its range. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Cool Facts:

  • Hundreds of thousands of American Robins can gather in a single winter roost. In summer, females sleep on the nests and males congregate in roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males in the roost. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting.
  • The American Robin eats both fruit and invertebrates. Earthworms are important during the breeding season, but fruit is the main diet during winter. Robins eat different types of food depending on the time of day; they eat earthworms early in the day and more fruit later in the day.
  • An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.
  • Although the appearance of a robin is considered a harbinger of spring, the American Robin actually spends the winter in much of its breeding range. However, because they spend less time in yards and congregate in large flocks during winter, 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. For a discussion of how snow cover affects wintering robins, based on Great Backyard Bird Count data.

Take a moment and enjoy a story from another one of our education coordinators and our camp director, Shawn, about how the robin got it’s red breast. Listen here.

We hope that you find time everyday to look for the many signs of spring in your own yard, or in your neighborhood – draw a picture, keep a journal of your observations, write a poem, take a picture – and then share those things with us! We’d love to hear from you.

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