Sunday, February 16, 2014

Return of the American Robins

I've been expecting to see the return of the Robins soon, and they were right on time.  Each year, about mid to late February, flocks of them are seen on lawns and forest edges throughout the South.  Most are on their return journey to the North for Spring breeding.   Although they're year round residents of the United States, Robins spend most of the winter months near the coastal areas or in dense forests where winter berries are abundant.  I usually don't see them until late winter and then it seems they're here for just a short while.

The Robins kept their distance as I tried to get closer to them.  The above photos have been heavily cropped for a better view of their rusty orange colored breasts, white underparts and dark gray heads.  I watched them for a little while as they foraged the front lawn.  

Through online reading, I've learned that Robin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a quarter-million birds during!  However, mortality rates are very high among this species.  It's estimated that the entire population of American Robins turns over on average every 6 years.  On average, 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.

Additionally, I've learned that when foraging on the ground, the American Robin runs a few steps, then stops abruptly. In long grass, robins may hop or fly just above the ground powered by slow, powerful wing beats. American Robins often find worms by staring, motionless, at the ground with the head cocked to one side. Robins sometimes fight over worms that others have caught. During fall and winter robins often roost in large flocks and spend much more time in trees. In spring, males attract females by singing, raising and spreading their tails, shaking their wings and inflating their white-striped throats. When pairs are forming in spring, you may see a display in which a male and female approach each other holding their bills wide open and touching them. 

Video of American Robin singing/foraging/collecting nest materials:

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