Signs of Spring – the American Robin

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) keeps a watchful eye.

I’m not sure whether it’s the weather but there seem to be more American Robins (Turdus migratorius) around lately. On my regular lunchtime walk this week I came across a large flock of close to thirty robins on a snow covered field. This was a day or two after the last spring snowfall and the robins were taking advantage of the open water in a low part of the field. Most of the other water sources in the area were frozen over so the water logged field became a destination, an oasis of sorts, for this flock.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) on Snow
One of a larger flock of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) on a snowy field in the Comox Valley, BC.

Robins can be seen year round on Vancouver Island but they’re a little harder to find in the dead of winter. They always turn up on Christmas Bird Counts but not in huge numbers. As we move into spring they start to become more conspicuous – one appeared in our back yard this week and occasionally I’ll see one out outside my office on the lawn looking for worms.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) on the Lawn
A typical location for an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) – our backyard lawn.

Robins are fairly easy for most people to identify – the cheery orange/red breast is noticeable and contrasts with the darker head and gray back. The foraging behaviour of the American Robin is distinctive, an irregular hopping through short grass punctuated by short low flights and lots of staring at the ground motionless with its head cocked to one side.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) Looking for Worms
An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) looking for worms.

While it looks like the robin is listening for worms, research indicates that they may actually be looking for signs of worms digging. Robins will generally eat more earthworms in the early part of the day (getting a good protein load) before switching to fruit (if available) in the late afternoon. Invertebrates like worms, beetles and caterpillars make up less than half of the bird’s diet – a majority of the diet is fruit. During the winter when there is snow on the ground and worms aren’t available they have to be creative.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
I managed to get one closeup photo of this robin through a screen of branches. Note the yellow beak with black tip and white crescent around the eye.

A common bird, but nonetheless it is nice to see them a little more regularly. These ordinary thrushes are sure sign that spring is on its way!

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  1. Thanks Mick – I didn’t have time to move into a better position but I think that in the end the branches actually worked pretty well!

  2. They are quite different from the European robins. Do you think they were named robins because of their red chest?

  3. Robins do seem to be more abundant in Spring in Utah and Idaho, even though they do over winter. eBird data does show that Robins are reported more often in Spring. I too really like your close-up.

  4. Thanks for stopping in Gwendolen! According to Wikipedia (and other sources) early settlers thought that the American Robin looked similar to the European Robin – hence “American” robin. I don’t really see the resemblance but maybe after a hard days work clearing land they might look the same!

  5. Well we live in the same general part of the world, and we’ve got them everywhere here now too. Still fascinating to watch!

  6. Great shots of the American Robin Dave and super information too. I never knew that their main food was fruit, even though I’ve seen them swallowing berries until it looked as if they would burst at the seams. This time of year they always seem to be digging for worms. We have more this year in our yard than I have seen in years.

  7. Great series of the robins. I like the snow shot and his shadow. There may be lots of ’em but they’re awfully cute!

  8. Pingback: Island Nature :: Lunchtime Walk with Chestnut-backed Chickadees

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