Sycamore Grove Farm, Madison County
If you’re like me, you are wondering where are all the robins coming from lately? I occasionally observe (or hear) one or two robins on my daily morning bird walk during the winter. But in the last week and a half they are arriving in droves. Two days ago I counted 150 robins within 300 feet of our house. On this morning’s bird walk I counted 75. They fly down into the grassy area and hop around, looking for something to eat. The back story is that most Virginia robins don’t migrate - they spend their entire winter in their breeding range here. The reason we don’t see them is they simply move into the nearest woodlands, finding worms, grubs and insects in spots where the ground remained open and unfrozen. Robins also eat a wide variety of berries remaining on bushes from the fall.
The robins we are seeing in big flocks now are the robins that did migrate south. These are probably male robins which are returning to their breeding grounds up north to stake out territory. The migrating female robins arrive a little later – from a few days to around two weeks.
Our resident robins will become more visible as the weather warms up a bit, typically around April. Their mating season runs through July. American robins are one of the first birds to begin laying eggs each spring. They normally have two or three broods each season. The average life span of a robin is two years (remember a dark-eyed junco’s longevity averaged 11 years). They have a lot of predators, including other birds (crows, ravens, hawks, owls and eagles); mammals (squirrels, raccoons, foxes, and wild and domestic cats); and reptiles (rat snakes, gopher snakes and snapping turtles).
In her book Slow Birding: The Art and Science of Enjoying the Birds in Your Own Backyard, Joan E. Strassmann shares the findings of two Canadian professors on “How Robins Find Worms.” The scientists determined that “the birds were initially locating worms by hearing, then tilting their heads back to focus their foveae [the sharpest, central part of the eye] on the spot where they first heard the worm.” Using this two-step process yielded them catching a worm 90% of the time! While they may have short life spans, they sure are successful as birds who catch the worms!
Birding tip: Make birding a habit. Go birding every day – even if it’s just 5 minutes. Check out How To Train Your Brain To Adapt To A Habit from KWIK Learning, whose motto is “Read faster. Work smarter. Think better.”
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