A common and widespread bird, the American robin (Turdus migratorius) has colorful, distinctive plumage and adapts well to areas dominated by humans. As a result it is one of our most recognized and loved birds. Everyone knows this member of the thrush family with its reddish-orange breast and blackish upper parts and tail – the robin red breast of the Mother Goose rhyme.
Robins eat earthworms, insects and fruit. Foraging in lawns, they hop along, stop, and cock their heads. Common lore says that the robin is listening for earthworms when he tips his head. In reality it has been shown that the robin is looking for movement under the ground that indicates an earthworm or insect below the surface when it cocks its head. In that position the robin’s eye is staring directly at the ground. Nothing is funnier than watching a robin struggle to get a long worm out of the ground. In the fall and winter fruit becomes important in their diet. In our area robins eat large quantities of juniper berries (Juniperus occidentalis) to survive the winter and thus inadvertently “plant” many juniper trees as they rest on fences.
Although robins are present throughout the year, they are migratory birds. Birds that live in our area move farther south during the winter and are replaced by birds from farther north. Although only the males will flock and roost together during the breeding season, by winter the females no longer have a nest to tend and join the males. Huge flocks of robins form during the winter.
These pictured robins were sitting on a fence near our house (Modoc County CA). I do not remember that far back, but the American robin was probably the first bird I learned to identify as a child – and I would wager is the bird most everyone learns first.