Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Red, Red Robin bob, bob, bobbing into spring

American Robin drawing
We are at the time of year when we start to see the American Robin, Turdus migratorius, and I make a point of saying American because the European Robin Erithacus rubecula, is a different bird in a different species.  But we’ll stick with the American Robins, medium-sized birds in the thrush family, known to many because of their rusty reddish breasts, their worm-eating habits, and their beautiful blue- green eggs.  Robins are such a part of spring  and worms are such a part of robins that it makes sense that the March Moon is called "The Full Worm Moon,"  the time when worms start to emerge from the earth.

Although some American Robins stick around through the winter, we usually do not see much of them until early spring and then they are a harbinger of what’s to come—flowers, green leaves, baby robins, and lots of other spring births.  Robins are generally early risers.  Some researchers think they wake up and sing in the morning because they have more energy then.  Others think they get up to eat.  After all, they are worm eaters, and we all know “the early bird catches the worm.”  Those of us who like to take early morning walks often see robins pecking at the ground for a delightful raw wriggling protein-rich breakfast.  Robins actually have a somewhat varied diet; in addition to worms, they also enjoy a ripe piece of fruit, a juicy insect, and they are especially fond of tasty berries. 

If you see a muddy looking robin, it is probably a female building her multi-layered nest: first layer grasses, middle layer mud, and top layer more grasses, strings, and even hair.  Sounds rather cozy. They have as many as three broods a year.  Each clutch has 3-7 eggs (see the video of robin emerging from egg) that are incubated for about two weeks. Both parents feed the young and in about two or so weeks they leave the nest.  By the way, they often leave the nest unable to fly or fend for themselves.  They may move to different branches in the nest tree to try out life on their own, but some fall to the ground.  Good-hearted people sometimes pick them up and try to care for them, but most bird researchers suggest leaving them alone or maybe moving them to a nearby safer shrub.  Their parents are usually not that far away, and they come back.  They want to see what the little ones will do with some freedom.  Alas, many baby robins do not make it to adulthood; they are easy prey in the food chain. 

Robins come back; they often return to the same territory year after year.  Sometimes they build a new nest on top of the last year’s old one—not a bad solution to the housing crisis.  But for now, we look at them and to quote from Barbara Crooker’s poem:
“The robins. They come back. They pull the sun on the silver thread of their song.”

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