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Frequent flyer: American robin

THIS QUINTESSENTIAL EARLY BIRD IS A COMMON SIGHT ON LAWNS ACROSS THE LOWCOUNTRY.


Story by Bailey Gilliam

If you live in North America, you’ve probably spotted a robin yanking an earthworm out of your yard. This bird is widespread throughout the continent, and though they’re familiar town and city birds, American robins are at home in wilder areas too, including mountain forests and Alaskan wilderness. Robins are popular birds for their warm orange breast, cheery song and early appearance at the end of winter. These plump birds are the largest of the thrushes, and their round body, long legs and tail have probably inspired the phrase “round-robin.” Also known for their bright blue eggs, it’s no wonder they’re so frequently referenced in pop culture.

When foraging on the ground, the American robin runs a few steps, then stops abruptly. In long grass they may hop or fly just above the ground powered by slow, powerful wingbeats. These meticulous birds often find worms by staring motionless at the ground with their heads cocked to one side. And after a victorious catch, robins will sometimes fight over worms that others have caught. American robins are strong, straight and fast fliers. American robins are industrious birds that bound across lawns or stand erect, beak tilted upward, to survey their environment. When alighting, they habitually flick their tails downward several times.

During fall and winter, robins often roost in large flocks and spend much more time in trees. In the 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. In the summer females sleep at their nests, and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting. LL


Fun facts

• Robins eat a lot of fruit in fall and winter. When they eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.
• They have been known to eat up to 14 earthworms in one day.
• Robins eat different types of food depending on the time of day: more earthworms in the morning and more fruit later in the day. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution.
• The oldest recorded American robin was 13 years and 11 months old.
• Robin egg blue is a color named after the color of the bird’s eggs.

Where to find them

• These birds are attracted to open lawns and gardens with mature shrubbery and trees.
• American robins are common across the continent in gardens, parks, yards, golf courses, fields, pastures, tundra, as well as deciduous woodlands, pine forests, shrub lands and forests regenerating after fires or logging.
• During winter many robins move to moist woods where berry-producing trees and shrubs are common. They spend more time roosting in trees and less time in your yard when it is cold out, so you are less likely to see them.

Essentials

Find a full line of feeders, seeds and accessories for backyard bird feeding at Wild Birds Unlimited in the Festival Centre at Indigo Park on Hilton Head Island. Check out the WBU Eagle Cam at wbu.com.

FOOD & ACCESSORIES

• Mealworm
• Bark butter
• Fruit & berries
• Hulled sunflower seeds
• Peanut hearts
• Nesting platform
• Suet