American robin

An American Robin sings while perching on a tree branch during spring time in central Missouri.

• Species: American robin.

• Scientific name: Turdus migratorius.

• Nicknames: None.

• Claim to fame: The American robin is one of North America’s best-known songbirds. Long acclaimed as a harbinger of spring, this orange-breasted bird has been honored in songs and poetry for generations. 

The American robin is the state bird of Michigan, Virginia, Connecticut and Wisconsin.

• Species status: In addition to being a much-publicized bird, robins are abundant in many parts of the country, including Missouri.

The current robin abundance represents a comeback for the species. Robins were one of the birds affected by the use of DDT, which sometimes poisoned the birds outright and also weakened the shells of their eggs, resulting in fewer hatchlings.

• First discovered: The first scientific description of the American robin was written by the famed naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1766. 

The bird’s name is derived from its similarities to the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), an unrelated species found in many parts of Europe.

• Family matters: American robins belong to the bird family Turdidae, a group known as the thrushes. Most members of this group are large-eyed, slender-billed, strong-legged songbirds.

• Length: 9 inches to 11 inches long.

• Diet: American robins feed on a mixture of both wild and cultivated fruits, berries, earthworms, grubs and insects.

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Robins are known for their song, which is usually a series of three notes repeated in different orders and pitches.

• Life span: Information not available, but three to five years is probably a good estimation.

• Habitat: The American robin has adapted to a variety of habitats. A general rule of thumb when it comes to a robin’s habitat is that the bird needs open ground to forage for food and some woodland areas or at least a few scattered trees and shrubs for nesting and roosting.

• Life cycle: Because robins can be found in Missouri throughout the year, the robin’s association with the coming of spring is somewhat incorrect in this area – but not entirely. 

In winter, robins gather in huge flocks, particularly in southern Missouri where resident robins are joined by birds from colder northern regions. 

Because of these large flocks, winter is a time when they are seen with less frequency than in warmer months because they’re clumped together at select roosting sites instead of spread across the state. 

When these large flocks break up in spring because of courtship and mating routines, these birds begin to be seen and heard frequently.

So, while robins may not be returning here from warm, southerly states; their reappearance in your backyard from winter roosting sites still denotes a change of seasons.

Nest-building begins in March or April with the construction of cup-shaped structures by the females. Usually three to five blue-green eggs are laid and incubated by the female for about 14 days. 

She continues to brood the nestlings while they are very young, then later during bad weather and at night. 

The male offers occasional assistance by providing materials for the nest and sometimes feeding the chicks. The young fledge from the nest in about 15 days. Robins usually have two broods per nesting season. 

(source: MDC)

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