American Robin

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American Robin
Adult
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Turdidae
Genus: Turdus
Species: T. migratorius
Binomial name
Turdus migratorius
Linnaeus, 1766
"in America septentrionali"
     Breeding range     Year-round range     Wintering range
Synonyms

Merula migratoria

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is a migratory songbird. It is also known as the North American Robin.[2] It belongs in the thrush family, Turdidae. It was named after the European Robin. This is because the European Robin has a bright orange-red face and breast. The two species are not closely related.[3] The American Robin has seven subspecies. T. m. confinis is the most different subspecies.[4]

The American Robin lives throughout North America. It is a rare vagrant to western Europe (a vagrant is a bird that is found outside its normal species' range). It has also been a vagrant to Greenland, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Belize.[4] The American Robin can be found in many different kinds of habitats.[5] It likes open areas of ground to feed and areas with trees or shrubs to breed and sleep.[6] Because it has a large range, the IUCN Red List says that the American Robin will not decline, and is listed as Least Concern.[1]

The American Robin begins to breed shortly after returning to northern North America after spending the winter in the south.[6] The female will choose where to build the nest. She will make the nest with grass, sticks, paper, feathers, rootlets, and moss. Once the nest is built, she will lay 3 to 5 eggs.[5] After the chicks leave the nest, both parents will continue to take care of them, until they can live on their own.[6]

American Robin eggs and juveniles are eaten by squirrels, snakes, Blue Jays, Common Grackles, American Crows, and Common Ravens. The adults are eaten by hawks, cats, and larger snakes.[6] Sometimes, the Brown-headed Cowbird lays its eggs in the Robin's nest. This is called brood parasitism. However, the Robin usually rejects the cowbird eggs.[7]

Etymology[change | change source]

This species was first described in 1766 by Linnaeus. It was described in the twelfth edition of his Systema naturae. He called it Turdus migratorius.[8] This name (called a binomial name) comes from two Latin words. The first word, Turdus, means "thrush". The second word, migratorius, comes from migrare which means "to go". The term 'robin' has been recorded and used for this species since 1703.[9]

Description[change | change source]

Juvenile

The American Robin is large songbird. It has a round body. Its legs are long. It has a long tail.[5] It has a long, yellow bill.[10] It is dark gray-brown on its head, back, wings, and tail. It has an orange-red breast. There is a white patch on the underside of the belly, near the tail. This can be seen when it is flying.[5] American Robins that live in western North America are very pale (pale means light in color). American Robins that live in eastern Canada are very bright.[5] They have a white throat. It has black stripes in it.[6] Females have lighter gray-brown heads than males.[5] They also have lighter orange-red breasts.[4] A young American Robin (called a juvenile) is also lighter than the male. It has dark spots on its breast.[6] Both sexes are 20–28 cm (7.9–11 in) long. They have a wingspan of 31–40 cm (12.2–15.7 in).[5] American Robins that live in western North America are very pale. American Robins that live in eastern Canada are very bright.[5]

The American Robin was named after the European Robin. This is because the European Robin has a bright orange-red face and breast. The two species are not closely related.[3]

Subspecies[change | change source]

The American Robin has seven subspecies. They are very hard to tell apart. The different subspecies will breed with each other.

  • T. m. nigrideus breeds from along the coast in northern Quebec to Labrador and Newfoundland. It winters from southern Newfoundland south through most of the eastern United States to southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and northern Georgia. It is mostly dark or blackish on the head. It has a dark gray back. The breast is a little more red than the breast of the main subspecies.[4]
  • T. m. achrusterus breeds from southern Oklahoma east to Maryland and south to northern Florida and the Gulf states. It winters in most of its southern breeding range. It is smaller than the main subspecies. The black feathers on the front of the head and top of the head have light gray tips. The breast is lighter than the breast of the main subspecies.[4]
  • T. m. caurinus breeds in southeast Alaska through the coast of British Columbia to Washington and northwest Oregon. It winters from southwest British Columbia south to central and southern California and east to northern Idaho. It is a little smaller than the main subspecies. It has a very dark head. There is very little white on the tips of the outer two tail feathers.[4]
  • T. m. propinquus breeds from southeast British Columbia, southern Alberta, southwest Saskatchewan south to southern California and northern Baja California. It winters in much of the southern breeding range. It is the about the same size as or a little larger than main subspecies. It is lighter and is much more of a brownish-gray color. It has very little white on the tip of the outer tail feathers. Some T. m. propinquus birds do not have any orange-red on the breast. This is probably more common in females. Males are usually darker. They may show light or whitish sides to the head.[4]
  • T. m. confinis breeds above 1000 meters (3300 ft) in the highlands of southern Baja California. This form is very different. It has a light gray-brown breast. It is very small. It is the lightest subspecies. It has a light gray-brown head, face, back, wings, and tail. It usually does not have any white spots on the tips of the outer tail feathers. It is sometimes considered a separate species, the San Lucas Robin[4]. But the American Ornithologists' Union considers it as only a subspecies.[11]
  • T. m. phillipsi is found in Mexico south to central Oaxaca. It is a little smaller than propinquus. It has a larger bill. The male's breast is more of a rusty color than the main subspecies.[4]

Range and distribution[change | change source]

The American Robin can be found all over North America. It is found from Alaska and Canada south to Mexico.[5] Most American Robins winter in Florida and the Gulf States to Mexico to the Pacific Coast. They will sometimes winter in southern Canada and the northern United States.[6]

The American Robin is a rare vagrant to western Europe. Most of the American Robins have been found in Britain.[4] The most recent sighting of an American Robin in Britain was in January 2007.[12] It has also been a vagrant to Greenland, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Belize.[4]

Habitat[change | change source]

American Robins are found in many different kinds of habitats. Some of them are gardens, parks, yards, fields, pastures, tundra, woodlands, pine forests, and shrublands.[5] They like open areas of ground to feed. They like areas with trees or shrubs to breed and sleep.[6]

Status[change | change source]

The American Robin has a large range. It is estimated that its range is 16 million square kilometers (6 million square miles). It is also estimated that there are about 320 million individual American Robins. The IUCN Red List says that the species is not believed to reach the threat of decline. It is therefore considered Least Concern.[1]

American Robins used to be killed for their meat.[6] They were killed in the southern states. The meat was thought as a very good food. The American Robin is now protected in the United State by the Migratory Bird Act.[6]

Behavior[change | change source]

American Robin eating worms

The American Robin is most active during the day. During the winter, it groups together in large flocks at night. They sleep together in thick vegetation. During the day, these large winter flocks break up into smaller flocks. They feed in these smaller flocks. During the summer, American Robins are less social. This is because they are defending their breeding territories.[6]

Juvenile Robins spend their first four months of life near their nesting place. They then flock together with other American Robins before they migrate to their wintering places.[6]

Diet[change | change source]

The American Robin eats invertebrates. In the spring, they like to eat earthworms and snails.[5] Some other invertebrates that American Robins eat are beetles, grubs, and caterpillars. It will also eat fruits and berries. Some kinds of berries that they like to eat are chokecherries, hawthorn berries, dogwood berries, sumac fruits, and juniper berries.[5]

Breeding[change | change source]

Nest with eggs
Newly hatched chicks
chick

The American Robin begins to breed shortly after returning to northern North America after spending the winter in the south. It is one of the first North American birds to lay eggs. It has two to three broods (a brood is a group of offspring) each breeding season. The breeding season starts in April and ends in July.[6] It is one of the first birds to sing at dawn. Its song is made up of several small groups of sounds that are repeated.

Nest[change | change source]

The female chooses where to make the nest. She will usually make the nest on one or many branches that are hidden in leaves. In the west, the female will make the nest on the ground or in thickets. In Alaska, the female will make the nest on a cliff.[5] The female makes the nest. She starts with the inside. She uses grass and sticks to make a cup-shaped center. Other things that the female will use are paper, feathers, rootlets, and moss. After the center is done, she uses mud on the outside of the nest to make it stronger. She then puts soft grass in the cup. The nest is usually 15.2 to 20.3 cm (6 to 8 in) long. It is 7.6 to 15.2 cm high (3 to 6 in).[5]

Eggs and young[change | change source]

The female will lay 3 to 5 eggs in the nest. They are blue or blue-green. They are 2.8 to 3 cm (1.1 to 1.2 in) long. They are 2.1 cm (0.8 in) wide.[5] Only the female incubates the eggs (incubate means that the adult will sit on the eggs and keep them warm and help the babies inside grow).[6] It takes 12 to 14 days for the eggs to hatch.[5]

For the first few days, the chicks have no feathers and their eyes are closed.[13] The young live in the nest for about 13 days.[5] As the chicks grow older, the female will protect them only at night and during bad weather. After the juveniles leave the nest, they will follow their parents around and beg them for food.[6]

Both parents help feed and protect the fledged (fledged means a young bird that has just learned how to fly) juveniles until they can live on their own. The adults will give an alarm call to warn the juveniles that there is a predator near by. The parents will then attack the predator. Some of the predators they will attack are cats and dogs. They will even go after humans if the human gets close to their young. Fledged juveniles are only able to fly short distances. The coloring of the juveniles helps them hide better in bushes or trees. This kind of coloring is called camouflage.[6]

Bird banders have found that only 25% of juvenile American Robins live through their first year. The average life of an American Robin lasts about 2 years. The longest known lifespan of a wild American Robin is 14 years.[6]

Threats[change | change source]

Predators[change | change source]

Eggs and juvenile Robins that still live in the nest are eaten by squirrels and snakes. Some birds also eat eggs and juvenile Robins. These birds are Blue Jays, Common Grackles, American Crows, and Common Ravens. The adult American Robin is eaten by hawks, cats, and larger snakes. When feeding together in flocks, American Robins will watch each other for signs of predators. If a predator is seen, they will make a warning call.[6] Sometimes, the Brown-headed Cowbird lays its eggs in the Robin's nest. This is called brood parasitism. The Robin usually rejects the cowbird eggs. Because of this, brood parasitism by the cowbird is rare.[7]

Disease[change | change source]

The American Robin is known to carry a disease called the West Nile Virus. This disease comes from mosquitoes. Crows and jays are the first to die from this disease. The American Robin is more responsible for the transmission of the disease to humans. This is because the American Robin lives longer with the disease than the crows and jays. This allows the American Robin to spread the disease to more mosquitoes which then spread the disease to humans and other animals.[14][15]

In culture[change | change source]

The American Robin is the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin.[16] It was also shown on a 1986 Canadian $2 note, but it is no longer on the bill.[17][18]

There is color named after the American Robin's eggs. It is called Robin's egg blue.[9]

The Robin is considered a symbol of spring.[19] A good example is a poem by Emily Dickinson. It is called "I Dreaded That First Robin So". There are other poems about the first robin of spring. One of them is "The First Robin" by Dr. William H. Drummond. According to the author's wife, it is based on a Quebec false belief. The belief says that whoever sees the first robin of spring will have good luck.[20]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 BirdLife International (2004). Turdus migratorius. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  2. Manwell, Gloria J.; Sessler, "Blood Parasites of Pekin Robins (Liothrix luteus)", Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology (Syracuse: Department of Biology, Syracuse University) 20 (3): 363, http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/119678048/PDFSTART
  3. 3.0 3.1 McCrum, Robert; William Cran, Robert MacNeil (1992). The Story of English. Faber and Faber. pp. 123. ISBN 0 571 16443 9.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Clement, Peter; Hathway, Ren; Wilczur, Jan (2000). Thrushes (Helm Identification Guides). Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-7136-3940-7
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 "American Robin". The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_robin/id. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 Dewey, Tanya; Middleton, Candice (2002). "Turdus migratorius". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Turdus_migratorius.html. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Wolfe, Donald H. (December 1994), "Brown-headed Cowbirds fledged from Barn Swallow and American Robin nests", The Wilson Bulletin 106 (4): 764–766
  8. (Latin) Linnaeus, C (1766). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio duodecima, reformata.. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii). pp. 292.
  9. 9.0 9.1 J. Simpson, E. Weiner (eds), ed (1989). "Robin". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition ed.). Oxford:Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-861186-2.
  10. "American robin Turdus migratorius". U.S. Geological Survey. http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/infocenter/i7610id.html. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  11. "The A.O.U. Check-list of North American Birds, Seventh Edition" (PDF). AOU. http://www.aou.org/checklist/pdf/AOUchecklistPass-Mimidae.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
  12. "Village braced for invasion of twitchers as rare visitor flies in", John Roberts, Yorkshire Post, 26 January 2007
  13. "American Robin (Turdus migratorius)". International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. http://www.iwrc-online.org/kids/Facts/Birds/robin.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
  14. National Science Foundation: West Nile Virus: The Search for Answers in Chicago’s Suburbs
  15. "Diversity Of Birds Buffer Against West Nile Virus". Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090220191318.htm. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  16. 50 States. "50 States". http://www.50states.com/bird/statelst.htm. Retrieved July 25, 2007.
  17. Canadian Paper Money Society. "Canadian Paper Money". http://www.cdnpapermoney.com/English/BoC/1986_2.htm. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  18. Bank of Canada. "1986 Birds of Canada Series". http://www.bankofcanada.ca/en/banknotes/general/character/1986_2.html. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  19. Durant, Alan; Fabb, Nigel (1995). Literary Studies in Action. Routledge. pp. 75. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZqAOAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA75&dq=Robin+symbol+spring&lr=&ei=H5mjR5b2DYXUiwHYzqShCg&sig=IejZ7I7Ts5YxvTO0-hMKTkYpQH4. Retrieved 2008-02-01.
  20. Drummond, William Henry; Drummond, May Harvey (preface) (1908). The Great Fight. G. P. Putnam's Sons. pp. xi, 81–86. http://books.google.com/books?id=qZYOAAAAIAAJ. Retrieved 2008-02-01.