Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: American Robin Turdus migratorius

Description:

The American Robin is one of the best-known birds and a common sight across North America – the quintessential birds of garden lawns and parks where they can be seen searching for earthworms.
One of the first birds to arrive in spring the American Robin is a member of the Thrush family and was given its name by early settlers, who thought that, with its reddish breast, it resembled the English Robin.
American Robins breed north to Alaska, across Canada, and southward to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the United States and into southern Mexico.

Identification:

General: Large and sturdy with round body, long legs and fairly long tail. Adults measure about 25 cm long and weigh about 77 grams.

Adult Male: Nape and upper back dark gray / blackish, darker head with white eye crescents and dark tail showing white corners in flight. Bill yellow often with a black tip.

Adult Female: Duller gray upperparts with duller reddish/orange breast and paler head. Whitish belly with dark tail showing white corners in flight. Bill yellow often with black tip.

Juvenile: Large black breast spots with pale supercilium and duller, pinkish bill. Recent fledglings show prominent gape and natal down giving them a wispy, downy appearance.

Similar Species: Spotted Towhee has white spotting on back Varied Thrush is dark blue/gray above with a distinct breast band.

Behaviour: Watch an American Robin strut across a lawn. Notice how it takes several steps, then adopts an alert, upright stance with its breast held forward. When landing they habitually flick their tails.

Habitat: Although common in gardens, parks and residential areas they are also at home in wilderness areas and mountain forests and are found in most habitat types except marshes preferring open areas in winter.

Information:

Many American Robins spend the whole winter in their breeding range but spend more time roosting in trees so are less visible. These winter roosts can include as many as 250 000 birds and are a way to protect against predators and to locate feeding areas.
The American Robin has an extendible esophagus for storing fruit allowing the robin to survive low nighttime temperatures during the winter months. Fruit is a major part of the birds diet at this time of the year.

Migrating American Robins are not nocturnal migrants like many songbirds but travel during the day. They begin their northward movement in late February arriving in Canada in early March. Temperature is a key factor in their migration, for the birds need soft ground in order to dig for earthworms.

American Robins can produce three successful broods in one year but research has shown that on average only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young – of those only about 25 percent survive to November and only about half of those will make it to the next meaning that the entire population turns over on average every six years!

The longevity record for American Robin is 13 years and 11 months.

Conservation Status: (Least Concern)

Populations appear to be stable or increasing throughout range. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to predation from domestic cats and pesticide poisoning but unlike many species, the American Robin has adapted well to habitat disturbance adapting to urbanization. Deforestation, the growth of urban areas, and the increase in farmland have all contributed to the breeding habitat for this bird.
 
Capture Rates


Usually a short-distance migrant, American Robin can remain in the Lower Mainland through the winter depending on local weather conditions. They are among the first species to return to their breeding grounds as seen by the spike in capture rate (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) in March then again in June - August when young are dispersing. If American Robin do remain over the winter however, they are usually seen not extremely active and congregating at large roost sites high up in trees as suggested by our zero capture rates between November – February.

 

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