Red-chested harbinger of spring
For many of us, one of the most popular birds in North America has to be the American Robin. Just as the snow begins to disappear, this bright red-chested bird suddenly appears on our lawn. With its arrival, we all give a sigh of relief, for spring cannot be far behind.
The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is one of the most common and widely distributed birds in North America. It is also the most well- known bird, and it is one of the first birds that we can identify as a child. This bird tends to like areas of shaded trees and can best be seen in wooded areas, parks, gardens, and other agricultural areas.
Both the male and female have a red chest, the males having a brighter red colour. Both have a black back and head, a white eye-ring and a bright yellow bill. The young tend to have a spotted breast. This bird can also be identified by its distinctive call of “cheerily, cheer-up, cheerio” sound.
The Robin is normally a solitary bird and is usually found alone or in pairs. In winter, they become more social and are found in large flocks, especially during migration periods. This bird likes to eat earthworms, berries, and other fruit. In the winter, it can survive off berries and fruit.
The American Robin is monogamous. It will build its nest in a tree, overhang of a building, or any nesting shelf, as long as it is high enough to be safe from predators and protected from the rain. The Robin can be very aggressive in protecting its nesting area from danger.
The Robin has one to three broods per year depending on its location. In the north, it tends to have one to two broods, while in the south it can have up to three broods per year. The female Robin incubates the blue eggs for 12-14 days. The young remain in the nest another 14-16 days and are fed by both parents.
The American Robin is in no danger of extinction. Being one of the most adaptable birds in North America, it is found in northern Alaska, all across Canada and the United States, and as far south as southern Mexico. In the winter, the Robins in the north migrate to Florida, southern Texas, and various parts of Mexico.
On the local scene, some early first wave spring birds are just arriving. I have received reports of early Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds. There have also been several flocks of Canada Geese flying over the area, and future flocks may have some Snow, Cackling or Greater White-fronted Geese among them. There are also severalRough-legged Hawks throughout the area as these hawks slowly pass through on their way north. Expect the arrival of Common Grackles, Killdeer, American Woodcock, and Rusty Blackbirds. When the rivers and lakes begin to open more, you can also expect the arrival of Mallard Ducks and then Hooded Mergansers, and perhaps some early Great Blue Herons.
In terms of the late winter northern migrants, I suspect we will not get any or perhaps a few late Common Redpolls and Pine Siskin. There is still a possibility of getting more Dark-eyed Juncos as some of these birds should return through our area from the United States. Keep an eye on your fruit trees as well, as there is a possibility that a few Bohemian Waxwings may return from the east, passing through on their way west.
The first report of a Red-winged Blackbird was made by Cathy Van Starkenburg of Micksburg on Feb. 2. The second report of Redwinged Blackbirds was by Fred Haines of Petawawa on March 1. Since then I have had many informal reports of these birds as well as of Robins.
Around this same period of time, Rob Cunningham of Barren Canyon Road spotted an early American Kestrel in the Osceola area. Expect more sightings of these little hawks over the next few weeks.
Finally, on March 2, John Meadows of Westmeath reported several Canada Geese on the Ottawa River in front of his home. I have been getting reports that there are thousands of Canada Geese all along the St. Lawrence River waiting to head up north.
Please call me with your bird sightings and feeder reports at 613735-4430, or email me at hooles@ bell.net . For more information on upcoming events or other links to nature, just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists’ website, or like us on Facebook.
An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) eating berries in an early spring snowstorm.