Migration Update: April 5, 2011
Please Report
Your Sightings!

Robins are arriving and even singing at higher latitudes. When will they reach interior Alaska where students are watching and waiting? See records from the past decade, then enter the "Early Bird Contest" and send us your guess! Read Answers from the Expert this week, and ponder why claiming and defending a good territory is so important to a male robin.

This Week's Report Includes:

Image of the Week


Why is a claiming and defending a good territory so important to a male robin? Find out!
The Migration: What's Happening Now & What to Watch For

What's Happening Now
Robins began to sing this week way up north in Canada at latitude 49N:

  • "Not an April fool joke to stand outside and hear this welcome sign of spring," reported a happy Mariaopolis observer on April 1. She offered this translation of her first robin's song: "Yes, we're here and thank you for not cleaning up all the fruit on your apple tree last fall." Mariapolis, Manitoba
  • We heard (and saw) our long awaited first male robin this morning while walking to school (830 am). It's clear and sunny and still cold (snow still on the ground). I heard him first and the kids were thrilled when I pointed him out at the top of a tall tree. Winnipeg, Manitoba

Farther south, but at higher elevations, people in the Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Colorado and Utah haven't yet reported singing robins. It's colder in the mountains the higher you go, so robins and other signs of spring arrive later. But singing robins should happen soon:

  • After a night of heavy rain, a Lewiston, Montana observer reported on April 1: "As I walked to school, the sidewalks were covered with earthworms. Good news for the large flocks of robins seen in the past two weeks."

Watch the map in coming days and you'll see that singing robins will reveal the temperature patterns of our continent. With each passing week, we'll hear reports of robins are singing at higher latitudes and at higher elevations.

What to Watch For

Predict when the first robins will reach interior Alaska!

At latitude 62 north in Shageluk, Alaska, students at Innoko River School officiate Journey North's "Early Bird Contest." Teacher Joy Hamilton reports:

"No sign of the 'gah-non-da-doy' (robins) yet. We're still locked in snow and ice here."

Early Bird Contest: Send Your Prediction!
When do you predict robins will arrive, based on the records students have kept for the past decade? Explore this link to do your research:

Watching for the early bird at latitude 62N.

'Gah-non-da-doy' means 'robin' in the Athabascan language Deg Xinag.

Robin migration map: First robins heard singing


This Week's Featured Map

Map Questions/Journal

Explore: Answers From the Robin Expert Expert Answers 2011

A big thanks to Laura Erickson for providing her time and expertise in responding to your questions about robins! Now you can look for answers to these questions and more:

  • Why are the eggs blue?
  • What is one reason why female robins don't return until later than males?
  • What is the average lifespan of an American Robin?

Teachers: You can use today's Answers from the Expert, along with those from previous years, in these activities suggested in "Learning from Experts."

Laura Erickson
"It's always fun to read the questions here! Thanks for participating in Journey North!" says Laura.

An Author Shares: "American Idol Robins"

Meet author Don Grussing, who grew up with six kids in a crowded house. He loved escaping outdoors, where he heard only the birds. Mr. Grussing wrote The Seasons of the Robin. The story follows a young male robin's first year of life from struggling to hatch, through his first migration, returning home, establishing a territory, finding a mate and starting the cycle anew. Mr. Grussing shares a story just for us:

American Idol Robins by Don Grussing
Female robins don't sing the territorial song, but very many, if not most, male Robins seem to be paying attention to the judges on TV’s "American Idol" show.
They take the common Robin song, and make it their own. They add phrases, warbles and sounds that make it possible for us to distinguish one Robin’s song from another’s. Often these modifications of the songs involve many repetitions of parts of the song that seem to be favorites of the singer. This can help you tell one robin from another.

Try This! Listen to the robins sing and see how long it takes for you to learn the differences between the songs of your neighborhood robins. Robins sing most often in the morning or before a rain, but often will burst into song at any time of the day (and sometimes night) during the breeding season.

Any Robins At Mr. Grussing's Yet?
We asked and he replied: "I have seen several passing through, but not one musical note. We still need more snow to melt in this neighborhood to make it good habitat for robins. Oh, and the waxwings ate all the crabapples and buckthorn berries early in the winter."

Coming next week: Another story just for us!

Author Don Grussing shares a birding adventure with his grandkids.

Mr. Grussing wrote in his book's preface:
" Once you experience the world through a robin's eyes, I hope you'll look at every wild thing with new appreciation and respect for what they accomplish by living."

Research Question and Links: Investigate!
This Week's Research Question: Other links to explore:

What does a robin look for when choosing a territory?

Explore this link to do your research:

Please Report Your Sightings!
The First Robin You

Robins migrating in Waves

The First Robin You
Hear Singing

Your first sighting of Earthworms

Wayne Kryduba

More Robin Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

The Next Robin Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 12, 2011.