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American Robin

Used with permission. Leanne Guenther

American Robin

© Contributed by Leanne Guenther

(Genus, species:  Turdus migratorius)

Each year, we've had a pair of robins build their nest and raise their chicks under the drain-spout of our roof.  The cheerful singing of the male robins wakes us up each morning (though I must admit that the peeping of the chicks gets to be a bit much when they're waiting for breakfast).

Distribution / Location

Most of us don't have to wander far to bird watch if you're happy to watch the American Robin.  They're one of the first to arrive in spring and happily hop along on front lawns searching for a meal of worms.

The American Robin is a member of the Bluebird and Thrush family.  It's called the 'American' robin because it was named after a similar (though smaller) bird found in Great Britain.

Male Robin

Used with permission.
© Leanne Guenther

Description - male: 
The male robin's most striking feature is  his red/orange breast and belly.  They have gray-brown back and tail feathers with a slightly darker head.  Their white throat is streaked with black and their undertail coverts are white.

They have brown legs and a thin yellow bill that they use for pecking worms and insects out of the ground.

Description - female:
The female robin's coloring is quite similar to the male, but everything is a slightly paler color.

Description - young: 
The young robins also look similar, but have a heavily spotted breast.

Diet of Robin

The main diet of the American Robin is berries.  This is supplemented by insects, larva and worms.

The reason we see so many robins searching out worms is that worms and cutworms are the main diet of the chicks in the nest -- both parents are kept hopping to feed their hungry babies 100 meals each day!

At times, the robin will cock its head to the side toward the ground.  It looks a bit like he's listening for the worms crawling under the ground, but really he's watching the ground for the tiny movements that would indicate a worm is traveling close to the surface.

Robins live in urban areas, forests, ranchlands and roadsides.


Robins prefer to nest in spruce or maple trees, but are very adaptable, nesting in all sorts of trees and  buildings -- I've even seen one nest laid right in the middle of someone's outdoor plant pot.  They usually return to the same nesting area each year and will reuse nests from previous years.

The female robin is in charge of nest construction.  She takes 2 to 6 days to make the nest, using mud mixed with grass or small twigs.  She uses her bill and feet to mould the nest into a cup shape and then adds a final lining of grass.

Robin Eggs

Photographer:  Bates Littlehales

The female typically lays two clutches of eggs each year.  Each clutch typically has 3 or 4 eggs (though they can have anywhere from 2 to 6).

The eggs, of course, are robin's egg blue -- they're one of the prettiest bird eggs around.

It takes about 2 weeks to incubate the eggs.  During this time, the female sits on the nest while the male guards the area.  Once in awhile the male will sit on the nest to give the female a break.

The young stay in the nest for about 15 days.  Then they leave so the female can begin the second clutch.

Robin Predator

Used with permission. Leanne Guenther

The main enemy of the American Robin is the housecat -- our cat Sera can attest to this.  She's never caught one, but she spends hours watching them out the window.   (see photo to the right)

Other enemies include bobcats, owls, hawks, crows, jays, snakes, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoon.  Most of these enemies feed on the young or eggs, not the adult birds.

Robins begin their return to nesting grounds each spring in about February.  They arrive in southern Canada in March and in the more northern areas in mid-May.  The males arrive at their breeding grounds first with the females following about a week behind.


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