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American Robin Migration Update: May 4, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

Robins Spread Across Northern Canada & Across Alaska!

American Robin Migration
as of May 4, 1999

According to observers in the far north, the robins have almost reached the end of the road. At long last, our migration map clearly shows their northward movement. Print and analyze our map, or make your own:

At our observation post in Anchorage, the migration spread across town dramatically last Monday-Wednesday, as told by Mr. Rod Murray of Sand Lake Elementary:

"I got on my bike on the morning of Monday the 26th of April and heard a robin in my yard. When I got to school, I asked my morning class, 'Heard any robins?' and got a yes from about six of them. My afternoon class was about the same. They'd seen them over the weekend.

"On Tuesday morning, I heard the same robin singing at 5 am when I got up, and heard another on a trail I ride out near the bluff above the inlet on the way to school. More than half the kids had seen one in both my classes.

"On WEDNESDAY, we awoke and the place was positively SWAMPED with robins! They were chirping and twittering and cheeping everywhere. Kids in both classes all remarked on it. While we were making our report, a couple flew by the window!

"One of the big signs of spring in Anchorage is the arrival of the rental car fleets! Avis and Hertz and Budget cars start to dominate the roads here at this time of year! Roseanne says she's seen five convertibles!" (

Still Waiting for Robins.....
In Kenai, Alaska, Mr. Vetters reports:
"The caribou and snow geese are showing up, and the first run king salmon are starting to appear in the rivers...but...we have NOT seen any robins yet!" (

Let's hope we've heard from them before our final report later this month!

How Do Robins Find Worms?
Challenge Question #17

Robins spend much of their lives searching for one of their favorite foods, earthworms. Most scientists now conclude that they find these worms by vision, thanks to experiments by an ornithologist named Frank Heppner.

In his experiments, he investigated all the robins' senses. To prove robins use vision, he needed to rule out the other senses robins might use to get information about worms. A list of the equipment he used is provided below. But think about this:

Challenge Question #17
"If you had the materials Frank Heppner used, how would you design experiments to prove which sense(s) robins use to find worms? Why do you think he used each of these materials?"

  • Pieces of dead earthworm
  • Living earthworms
  • Rotten eggs
  • Decaying meat
  • Rancid butter
  • Mercaptoacetic acid (which smells like a cross between sewer gas, rotten cabbage, a skunk, and a stinkbug)
  • A small drill
  • A tape recorder that was extremely sensitive at low frequencies

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Shy Country Bumpkins vs. City Slickers
As you know, robins are nesting over most of the continent right now. In towns and cities, they seem calm and unafraid near people. But in wilder areas, especially in the northern forest, they are very shy. Why the difference?

Challenge Question #18
"Why are American Robins that nest in northern forests more shy around humans than those nesting in towns and cities?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions
1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. Answer only one Challenge Question in each e-mail. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 17 (OR Challenge Question # 18).
3. In the body of your message, answer the question.

Journey North
Year End Evaluation
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The FINAL Robin Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 18, 1999.

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