Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Apple #43: Robins


I just got a little book about robins.

The American Robin
by Roland H. Wauer

I am very excited to learn some things about these birds and to share what I learn with you. Robins are so common, but I love to hear their good-night songs at the end of the day, in the summer time. I also like that they have orange bellies.

Just glancing through this book, I'm seeing so many great facts in here, I'm going to have a hard time choosing only a few. But I'll try to hold myself back to a reasonable amount.
  • The robin is a kind of thrush, a type of songbird. Other thrushes include bluebirds and nightingales.
  • While the average life span of a robin is 1 year and 2 months, at least one robin is known to have lived for 17 years.
  • Robins fly at speeds of 17 to 32 miles per hour.
  • A single robin has about 2,900 feathers on its body.
  • An average brood of baby robins gets 356 feedings each day.
  • People think that only the male sings, but in fact both sexes sing. They sing most frequently just before their young hatch.
  • While most birds sing as a way to mark territory or attract a mate, naturalists have not been able to attribute any similar kinds of reasons for the robin to sing. Robins do call to each other to warn of danger, but calling is different from singing. They sing at first light, and they sing in the evening. They sing just before rain.

  • Like dogs, birds do not sweat. They release excess heat by panting.
  • Robins, like many other types of birds, perform what is called "anting." They pick up ants, crush them, and rub the ant's body fluid on their feathers. Some speculate that the ant fluid (formic acid) provides some kind of natural pesticide, but nobody is really sure why they do this.
  • When a robin tilts its head close to the ground and appears to be listening for worms, it is actually looking very carefully at the soil, for earthworm burrows.
  • Animals, including worms and all sorts of bugs, make up slightly less than half of what a robin eats in a given year. Plants, especially berries, make up the rest.
  • Because robins eat worms, any place with broken soil and short grass makes a good home for robins. So as humans have settled more areas and made more farms and lawns, robins have expanded their territory also.
  • In the winter, robins cluster together and go to states where they can find berries. During this time of year, they tend to prefer wildlands rather than residential areas, perhaps because the berries they seek are more plentiful in the wild.
  • Robins are sometimes called the "wandering thrush" because they do not return to the same place to winter each year, but choose new spots all the time.
  • The term "robin snow" refers to a light snow after the robin has returned from its winter migration.
Okay, I need to stop myself. There is much, much more in this book, but I've put enough up here for one Apple. Maybe I'll have a Robins, Part II! Let me know what you think. If you're anywhere near as interested as I am, I'll add another Robins entry. If you'd rather move on to another subject, post a comment and let me know.

Source: Roland H. Wauer, The American Robin (Corrie Herring Hooks Series), University of Texas Press, 1999.
Photo from Michael H. Myers' photos of robins

1 comment:

  1. I love this blog! I grew up in a small town on the west coast of BC that had robins in abundance, and moved to northern BC where we didn't see many. Now I am in AB where we have none at all. I do miss their morning song and hadn't even thought about it in years! Fascinating blog. Thanks. :)


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