Friday, May 2, 2008

American Robin--Turdus migratorius

Photo Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife--Photographer Lee Karney

Like most thrushes, American Robins are a bit on the plump side. The back, wings, and tail of an American Robin are dark gray. The head is a slightly darker gray. The Robin's eyes are surrounded by thick, broken eye rings. The bill is large and yellow. The most well-known marking is the brick-red chest. Females are lighter. Less of a difference in color of head, back, wings, and tail. Juveniles are lighter than adults and spotted.

Photo Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife--Photographer Lee Karney

American Robins eat fruit, invertebrates including the proverbial worm, and insects. They tend to eat more fruit in the fall and winter and more insects and invertebrates in the spring and summer.

Photo Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife--Photographer Donna Dewhurst

In Spring and Summer, you will see American Robins with one or a few individuals on the lawns looking for invertebrates like worms. However, in Fall and Winter they get together in huge flocks and look for berries and other fruit just like the Cedar Waxwing. Winter and Spring difference in behaviors during winter and spring cause less sightings of American Robins even in areas where they occur year round. This is because while in one sighting, you may see a flock of American Robins, you will not see the individual American Robins you see on your lawn or in the park. The concentration of American Robins at fruit sources in the Winter reduces the number of places and the frequency of sightings. You may on occasion see a large flock, but you will not usually see an individual American Robin until Spring. Flocks can number in the hundreds of thousands. They migrate for the winter to the Pacific Coast from Southern Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Mexico and Guatemala.

Juvenile American Robin--Photo Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife--Photographer Sean Varner

American Robins like areas that combine grass, trees, and shrubs. They do well in Urban areas with lawns and parks as long as pesticides are not used. They are birds that are likely to show up in front and back yards as well as parks. They are seen in places like Peter's Canyon, Irvine Open Space Preserve, Mason Regional Park and even more including your own yard.

Photo Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife--Photographer James Leupold

Other American Thrushes include the Eastern Bluebird, the Western Bluebird, the Mountain Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, and the Varied Thrush. In Orange County, the list of thrushes is reduced to Swainson’s Thrush, and Hermit Thrush.

American Robin at Nest with nestlings from Birds and Blooms Magazine

American Robins have a breeding season that runs from April through July. They raise up to three broods. Oddly enough the same pair might pick very different places for its nests with each brood. The young are very dependent on the parents for food even after they leave the nest. American Robins mate for the season and raise young. Then they part. The average life span for American Robins live about 2 years, but the record for the longest lived American Robin in the wild is 14 years.

American Robins are well known during breeding season for fighting their own reflections in windows and buildings. At a job in LA, a Robin constantly attacked his own reflection in the window outside my supervisor's office. It was a little hard to concentrate during meetings in his office while the Robin challenged and fought himself in the window outside.

American Robin Courtesy of The National Biological Information Infrastructure Photographer--John J. Mosesso

This is an easy bird for any birder to add to their lifelist. Just look for this bird in the Spring at a park or yard near you.

Video by James Knott of Agile H Productions

OC Birder Girl Links

Birding Hot Spots in Orange County, California

Bird Walks and Nature Programs in Orange County

Orange County Bird Checklists

Irvine Open Space Preserve Nature Center

American Robin in Turtle Rock Nature Center aka Irvine Open Space Preserve Nature Center in Irvine.

External Links and Resources

Detailed page of information about the American Robin from Cornell University's Ornithology Lab.

Very thorough article from the University of Michigan.


(Auk: Vol. 113, No. 2, April-June, 1996)

BioKids: American Robin

Species profile.

Great information from the Seattle Audubon Society.

(Wilson Bulletin: Vol. 106, No. 4, October-December, 1994)

Great text and photographs from the Chipperwood Bird Observatory in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Research from Colorado State University on the effect of research on American Robins and the fledge rate of nests that are studied versus nests that are not. Interesting.

EPA: American Robin

Species profile from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Four Lakes Wildlife Center in Madison, Wisconsin

Nice article on the American Robin and its habits.

The Journey North: The American Robin

Curriculum for kids about the American Robin. Very thorough.

McGill Bird Observatory: American Robin

Canadian Bird Observatory which does lots of research on birds in North America. Good article on different colors morphs of American Robins.

Good article on the American Robin from New Hampshire Public Television.

Ohio Division of Wildlife--Life History Notes: American Robin

Some good information.


(Auk: Vol. 117, No. 3, 2000)

Short, but helpful.

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