Conservation status Least concern
The American Robin is 25–28 cm (10–11 in) long. It has gray upperparts and head, and orange underparts, usually brighter in the male; the similarity between this coloring and that of the smaller and unrelated European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) led to its common name. There are seven races, but only T. m. confinus in the southwest is particularly distinctive, with pale gray-brown underparts.
During the breeding season, the adult males grow distinctive black feathers on their heads; after the breeding season they lose this eye-catching plumage.
This bird breeds throughout Canada and the United States. While Robins occasionally overwinter in the northern part of the United States and southern Canada, most winter in the southern parts of the breeding range and beyond, from the southern U.S.A. to Guatemala. Most depart south by the end of August and begin to return north in February and March. (Exact dates vary with latitude and climate, of course.)
This species is a very rare vagrant to western Europe. In autumn 2003, migration was displaced eastwards leading to massive movements through the eastern USA. Presumably this is what led to no fewer than three American Robins being found in Great Britain, with two attempting to overwinter in 2003–4, one eventually being taken by a Sparrowhawk.
As with many migratory birds, the males return to the summer breeding grounds before the females and compete with each other for nesting sites. The females then select mates based on the males' songs, plumage, and territory quality. The females build the nest and lay three or four blue eggs in the lined cup. Incubation, almost entirely by the female is 11-14 days to hatching, with another 15–16 days to fledging. Two broods in a season are common. The adult male looks after the fledged chicks while female incubates her second clutch. Some people enjoy the Robin's presence, and want to protect the chicks; they do this by building nesting shelves for the Robin's use. Bird banders found that only 25% of young robins survive the first year.
The American Robin's habitat is all sorts of woodland and more open farmland and urban areas. Food is the typical thrush mixture consisting largely of insects and earthworms. Robins are also fond of some berries, including those of the black cherry tree; they will fly in especially to feed on them during the period when they ripen.
Robins are frequently seen running across lawns, picking up earthworms by sight. In fact, the running and stopping behavior is a distinguishing characteristic. When stopping, they are believed to be listening for the movement of prey.
Without showing symptoms, the American Robin is sometimes a carrier of the West Nile virus in the Western hemisphere.
This is the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Song and calls
The American Robin, like many thrushes, has a beautiful and complex song, and in contrast to other thrushes, its song is almost continuous. Its song is commonly described as a cheerily carol song. The song is made of discrete units, often repeated, and spliced together into a string with brief pauses in between. The song varies regionally, and its style varies by time of day. American Robins will often be among the last songbirds singing as the evening sets in.
In addition to its song, the American Robin has a number of calls used for communicating specific information. When a ground predator approaches but does not directly threaten, Robins will make a PEEK!! tut tut tut tut... warning call. When a nest or Robin is being directly threatened, another call is used, which sounds like a horse's whinny. Even during nesting season, when Robins exhibit mostly competitive and territorial behaviour, they may still band together to drive away a predator. Robins also make a very high-pitched sound when a hawk or other bird of prey is seen; other robins will repeat the sound, seek cover, and stop moving. During the colder parts of the year, the American Robin gathers in flocks around food sources, and there is yet another call that is heard in such flocks.
- Crayola has a crayon color, robin's egg blue named after the color of the eggs.
- The American Robin was depicted on the 1986 series Canadian $2 note.
- The Disney film Mary Poppins, set in London, incorrectly portrayed American Robins singing by an open window, despite the fact that the European Robin is the only bird named as a robin to be commonly found in the United Kingdom. Additionally, both robins building the nest in that film are males.
Male, front view
A single egg in a nest.
Nest, approximately 5 inches (13 cm) across,with four eggs
Same nest with four chicks. The pink "runt" in the center hatched two days later than its nest mates
- 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
- Thrushes by Clement and Hathaway, ISBN 0-7136-3940-7
- Design for human-built nesting shelves
- Albinism in Robins
- American Robin Facts - natural history, maps, and photos
- American Robin Nesting Behavior - photos and observations
- American Robin Photos - male, female, nestling, and fledgling photos
- American Robin Vocalizations
- American Robin videos on the Internet Bird Collection
- American_Robin.wav - .wav file of the bird's song.
- Burroughs Observes a Gourmet Robin. The naturalist John Burroughs marvels over a robin with a curious menu item.
- Getting Sturdy with the American Robin - Informative but non-scholarly essay on the American Robin.