American Robins: Signs of Spring?
Picture a beautiful spring day: the sun is out, a pleasant breeze flows over you, the trees are fluffy with colorful flowers, and birds are singing. Do you hear a song like this? That’s the song of the American Robin, a bird that has become a symbol of spring for many people. Maybe you even visualized some as you thought about spring!
These birds must be so closely associated with spring because they return from their migration when spring begins, right? Well, not exactly. It turns out that many American Robins don’t even migrate at all (see the range map, at left). Instead, they hide out in the trees in the United States and southern Canada, enduring the blizzards and ice storms of winter. They survive by eating berries and shivering to keep warm. It’s a lack of food more than anything else that causes some robins to migrate further south for the winter. If they have enough food to survive, robins will sometimes stay up north despite the harsh winter weather.
Even though some robins may still be lurking in the trees in your neighborhood, you’re much less likely to see them in the winter than in the spring. Since food is often sparse in the winter, the robins need to conserve energy by spending less time flying and hopping around in the cold. Some robins deceptively stick around for the winter; they are a sign of spring because we only start noticing them when the weather gets nice and they are in our yards seeking worms and other food as the weather warms.
Have the robins come out from their winter retreats or returned from their migration to your neighborhood? Take your kids out to listen to spring bird songs using our April Feathered Friends lesson and see if you can identify the songs of robins and other birds.