American Robin Migration Update: March 9, 1999
Today's Report Includes:
Calling All Robin Watchers!
(Discussion of Challenge Question # 3)
Question # 3 asked if last week's data and map show a northward movement of robins yet. Many Journey North participants have been reporting robins returning, but our data show over-wintering robins at least as far north as the most northern robins reported in February and March. So our data don't show a push north. We don't have any way of actually counting the robins at each latitude to see the movement--that's why we need YOU to report:
Next week we'll make maps of these observations and you can see if they reveal any patterns. This has been such
an unusual year for robins! Please help document this by reporting your observations regularly .
Robins Face Snowstorm
A major snowstorm has been hitting a large area from the Rockies through the Mississippi Valley. Some robins are already migrating, and many overwintered right where the storm is fiercest.
Are these birds in big trouble? Nope! They don't drive, so they won't be slipping around roads the way cars can. During the worst of it, while snow is flying, robins will sit tight in evergreens, or feed on the ground beneath evergreens. Thick gray down feathers, like built-in long underwear, fluff up beneath the outer feathers that we see. And if snow covers the ground so worms aren't available, they'll search for berries, crab apples, and other fruit left over from last fall.
Some berries that taste bitter in the autumn sweeten up by March, just when robins need them!
Are there robins where you are? What kinds of food are they eating right now?
For hints on how to help robins during bad weather, For hints on how to help robins during bad weather, see: Unpave the Way for Winter Robins.
While many Journey North participants wait indoors until the storm is over, let's try some robin math. One banded wild bird, "Robin A," lived to be 11 years, 8 months old. A bander found that "Robin B" weighed 84.2 grams.
Discussion of Challenge Question # 4
We asked: According to banding records from our JN Banding Data site, where did these 4 robins go for the winter?
Discussion of Challenge Question # 5
The most likely explanation is that there was a predator nearby. This writer paid close attention to a pair of robins one summer when a Merlin (a falcon that specializes in eating songbirds) nested in the yard next door to the robins nest. Whenever a Merlin was about, the robin sang its song at very low volume--as if someone had turned down its loudness dial. A Chipping Sparrow in the same yard also sang exceptionally softly. Both these birds were compelled to sing by their territorial and nesting instincts, but were in danger if they drew the Merlin's attention to themselves We asked Drew about this, and he confirmed that a Cooper's Hawk had been seen in his neighborhood that day.
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
Answer only one Challenge Question in each e-mail.
The next Robin Migration Update will be posted Tuesday, March 16, 1999.
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