American Robin Migration Update: March 20, 2001
Today's Report Includes:
This Week's Migration Maps and Data
On the Move!
Students in Tyngsborough MA saw a group of six robins together last week. Their teacher writes, "The immense snow cover is making foraging for the robins difficult and my students are keen to observe that most of the robins they see are in trees and bushes." Students in Harleysville, PA were seeing their first worms on lawns and sidewalks this week.
Even as some robins are moving north and others overwintered there, some are still lingering in the south. On March 8 we heard this from J. Flynn in Cumming, GA: "Robins have been on territory for about two weeks in the Atlanta area. There are, however, large flocks still moving through the Atlanta area. It's difficult to tell the migrants from the residents, but for the past week, I have heard robins singing from the same location every morning. I am assuming that these birds will be nesting in the area."
Fourth grader Lauren at Martic Elementary in Holtwood, PA, shares this story: "I was surprised when I went to feed my horses and saw two robins fighting over a worm!" We're surprised, too, Lauren! Robins defend a territory in spring partly so they won't have to waste energy fighting over worms. But as migrating robins continue to move in their flocks, every now and then two discover a worm at the same moment. This is what probably happened to Lauren's birds.
Thanks, everybody, for all the many other interesting robin reports sent this week! You can read the comments yourself by pressing the Owl button and selecting Robin Sightings.
Robins of a Different Feather: Challenge Question #14
Journey North observers have occasionally reported albino robins. John Holbrook recently reported seeing a partial albino near Schreiber Gym on the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula on March 3. Several others saw this bird in February and March at various locations across campus.
Another observer watched two albino robin chicks last year in a nesting box in Girard, IL She writes: "Last year Mama Robin raised two sets of nestlings, in the same nest, and there was an Albino in each set. The nest was easily viewed from our breakfast room window. We were surprised to see an albino in her second set of nestlings, but we never saw either of them in our yard after they fledged."
Then come back and answer this question:
Name That Tune!
If your robins aren't yet back and singing like crazy, it won't be long. You can find out what's going on in the robins' world if you know what they are saying and singing. Listen up! These sound recordings will help you recognize five kinds of vocalizations made by robins.
Now you're ready to play Name That Tune! Here are the same five vocalizations again, in scrambled order. Write
down the numbers, then listen to the recordings.
News From the Northern Outposts
If you haven't yet placed your guess for the Early Bird Contest, these observers have some helpful clues:
Margot in Grande Prairie, AB, Canada writes:
Stan from Homer, Alaska says,
From Fairbanks, AK, Ken Russell writes:
Richard reports from Nipawin, SK, Canada:
Early Bird Contest Reminder: Challenge Question #13
Mrs. Grimm's 5th grade from Kidron, Ohio sent the first entry in our Early Bird Contest. Remember to send us YOUR entry for:
Try This! How Fast Can a Robin Run?
In the north, wintering robins spend most of their time sitting in trees, feeding, hiding out from bad weather, and resting. To get from place to place, they fly. For northerners, one of the most welcome signs of spring is to see a robin on the ground, hopping or running. Their legs sure move quickly! But just how fast can a robin run? Lauren and Jordan of Madison Elementary School wondered about that, and it set our Robin Expert to wondering, too. While she works out the answer, she decided to challenge YOU to see if you can figure it out, too. Watch your backyard robins, and set up an experiment for figuring out their speed. Then let us know how you did it!
Remember to Ask the Expert!
Send your toughest questions to our expert Laura Erickson by 5 p.m. (Eastern Time) on March 30, 2001. We'll post Laura's answers on April 13.
Harbinger of Spring? Discussion of Challenge Question #12
"Why do we use robins as a "sign of spring" when they overwinter so far north?"
Sue-Anne in North Carolina comes this explanation, which we'll all agree with: "The robins are a sign of spring because they come back from the warmer places and back up north when it gets warmer so they can find worms."
But there's more to the story. Part of it certainly is tradition. "The first robin of spring" is a popular expression and it's a popular (if erroneous) notion that all robins fly south in winter and north in spring. The reason this notion is so deeply ingrained is that even robins wintering in the north act entirely different in winter than they do in spring, when they suddenly change their diets and leave their flocks to set up territory and nest.
Even though robins overwinter in many places, and even though a few of them even sing before they reach their breeding grounds, there is something special about seeing them on their territories for the first time each year.
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
1. Address an e-mail message to: email@example.com
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