Three Looks at the Common American Robin: Worm Gatherer, Insect Eater, Berry Pincher

The boldest of the thrushes of the Pacific Northwest, one of the most recognizable birds in North America, and one of the heralds of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, the American Robin is a familiar sight just about anywhere where there's a patch of green -- lawns, forests, mountains, and even golf courses. While it has been stereotyped as the early bird who gets the early worm, these large, long-lived songbirds are also insectivores who have a propensity to (shamelessly) plunder blueberries from right under one's nose, in addition to mountain ash and pyracantha berries, swallowing these small fruits in a single gulp.

an adult male Robin roosts in a tree at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on December 29, 2015. mild Metro Vancouver winters mean that Robins are year-round residents here. © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.

Both adult males and females will visit my backyard throughout most of the year, but especially (and not coincidentally) when the blueberries ripen in early June and the pyracantha berries ripen in early winter. Now that we also have a mountain ash tree, courtesy of a visiting mystery bird, the robins will be paying us visits in mid- to late summer, too. Thanks to an exceptionally early ripening of the fruit on early fall 2016, 8 Robin "regulars" cleared the front lawn pyracantha bush of its hundreds of berries in three short weeks; normally, the pyracantha berries aren't touched until February. I have never seen any robins' nests built near the house, nor nestlings, but at the start of summer this year, I saw fledglings (for the first time) accompanying the parents.

an adult female wolfs down berries from the front lawn pyracantha bush on December 14, 2015. daily hordes of hungry birds cleaned out these berries in three weeks! © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.

Ironically, I chanced upon two such youngsters/sub adults when I was in the backyard (and hoping, instead, to photograph a Rufous Hummingbird feeding from the fuchsia). Two juvenile Robins, with typically much more muted colors than their parents, were in the clearing by the euonymous bushes, having a quiet moment while mom and dad gathered the afternoon grub. Neither juvie was particularly inclined to move just because I had unwittingly intruded on their space. Instead, they took turns being in the limelight, and the youngster you see here (no more than a couple of feet away from my lens) was the one to like the attention more than the other.

one of two visiting fledglings in the backyard, photographed on June 23, 2016. note the drab coloration and black speckling on the breast. © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.

Learn more about the American Robin by visiting its Cornell Lab of Ornithology profile here. ✍️


Published by Hui Sim


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