In my circle of friends and colleagues I am often the “go-to guy” when they have questions about birds and wildlife. There is a topic that comes up this time each year. Like clockwork I received this facebook message this week:
So tell me Geoff why have I been seeing Robins for the last couple weeks. Every time I see them I think ..”Oh boy! Spring!” Then I remember it’s January. Those birds are just playin with me…
I’m not sure how the American Robin became a harbinger of spring. It’s a pretty poor choice. I had to look no further than the iBird app on my iPhone to provide a clear picture of the range of the robin.
The light green indicates the winter range of the robin. Clearly Indiana is within this range.
Many, maybe even most, robins leave central Indiana. I suspect that the sense that they’ve all left has more to do with behavior (humand and bird) than with fact.
In the spring folks are much, much more aware of the natural changes in their environment. They are watching and aware of flowers blooming and birds returning to our gardens. During the winter months we are more aware of the birds at our feeders. Robins aren’t typical feeder birds.
During the winter Robins behave very differently than they do during the warmer months. You don’t see them in pair and small groups foraging for worms and insects. The ground is frozen and this prey is dormant or inaccessible. They collect in large flocks and move about the landscape in search of their winter food – berries.
In the weeks before winter break a large flocks of robins settled along the fence dividing my schoolyard from the White River. The fence-row and ornamental trees around the playground provided these birds with the berries they love. A small garden pond outside my classroom provided them with water and bathing. It wasn’t unusual to find more than twenty birds around the pond throughout the day.
Since we’ve been back to school I’ve seen no robins in the schoolyard. They’d stripped the trees and moved on.
This week a large flock is working the ornamental trees around the Noblesville Meijer Store. The presence of this flock has fostered the usual speculation about stranded and lost robins. Don’t worry. They are in their element.
I’m stranded at home today in a tomb of ice. I’ve a proposal for a new harbinger of spring. If time allows we can explore this bird a little later today.
There’s the story. Now I need to carve a few robins to go with it!