American Robin

Turdus migratorius

American Robin
Photo © Ken Gibson/Flickr/CC by 2.0

Often believed to be the “first bird of spring,” the American robin is actually one of the most common and familiar backyard birds all year long. With distinct colors and interesting behavior, robins are one of the most beloved wild birds, and they are recognized as the state birds of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Common Name: American Robin, Robin Red Breast, Robin
Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius
Scientific Family: Turdidae

Appearance:

  • Bill: Straight and long, yellow, slightly hooked tip
  • Size: 10 inches long with 15-16-inch wingspan, deep belly
  • Colors: Gray, black, white, rusty red
  • Markings: Genders are similar though females can appear fainter or less colorful. The back is gray or brown-gray and the chest and abdomen are red or red-orange. The lower abdomen and undertail coverts are white with some blurry black or gray spotting under the tail. The head is dark gray on females and black on males, and the black eye is surrounded by a broken white eye ring. White throat has distinct black stripes but the chin is plain. Legs and feet are dark.

    Juveniles look similar to adults but show pale whitish spotting or short streaks on the upperparts and gray or gray-black spotting on the underparts.

Foods: Insects, fruits, berries, larvae, nuts, suet, worms (See: Omnivorous)

Habitat and Migration:

American robins are one of the most common backyard birds in North America.

They can be found throughout the continental United States and central Mexico year-round in urban, suburban and forest habitats. Populations in southern Canada and the extreme southern United States migrate seasonally. American robins are frequently found in open areas, including gardens, parks, yards, and golf courses.

Vocalizations:

The robin’s song is familiar to many birders with its high, varied pitch warble. A low “hip-hip-hip” call is also frequently used. American robins are frequent contributors to the dawn chorus in spring and early summer and will sing even before the sun rises as they seek out mates and advertise their mating readiness.

Behavior:

During the breeding season, American robins are largely solitary or may stay in pairs. During the winter, birds may congregate in large flocks. Male robins are very territorial near their nests and feeding areas and will chase away other robins or even attack their own reflections in glass windows or chrome car bumpers. While feeding, robins run forward before pausing and turning their heads to look for worms and insects with their keen eyesight.

Reproduction:

The American robin's nest is a deep, sturdy cup of twigs, grasses, and mud, usually positioned in the crotch of a tree or a branch fork, though these birds will also readily use nesting shelves. They may also nest in the crooks of gutter downspouts, on top of sheltered bird houses or in other unusual locations. Nests are generally positioned in sheltered areas with cover from rain.

Pairs of robins will produce 2-3 broods of 3-8 pale blue eggs each during their annual breeding season.

Multiple broods are more likely for southern populations where the climate is more favorable for a long reproductive season. The female parent does the majority of the incubation for 12-14 days, and she is also responsible for most of the feeding during the 14-16 days of the nestling stage before juvenile birds are ready to leave the nest.

Attracting American Robins:

American robins readily visit backyards, often foraging for worms and insects in the grass. Backyard birders can make their yards more attractive to robins by providing mealworms, fruit, or jelly in platform or ground feeders. Robins are especially attracted to bird baths and dust bath areas and may visit open sunny spots for sunbathing. Bird-friendly landscaping and fruit trees such as crabapples and cherries will also attract robins.

Conservation:

American robins are not considered threatened or endangered, and they are very adaptable to areas under development, such as suburban communities and housing developments. Overuse of pesticides can be hazardous to robins, however, not only by eliminating the food they need but by directly poisoning these ground-feeding birds. Feral cats and outdoor pets are also a grave threat to American robins, especially juvenile birds in suburban areas.

Similar Birds:

  • Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)
  • Rufous-Backed Robin (Turdus rufopalliatus)
  • Clay-Colored Robin (Turdus grayi)
  • Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
  • Eyebrowed Thrush (Turdus obscurus)
  • Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
  • Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)