American Robin Migration Update:
March 16, 2004
Today's Report Includes:
News: Creeping Northward
This week’s maps show more sightings in more places, but still no
big surge. Meret of Ormond Beach, FL tells us that when the robins leave
Florida, really ARE on their way north and the migration is underway.
On March 10 Meret told Journey North: “The robins no longer grace
our skies daily in North Central Florida.” A day later she wrote
back to say the robins made a liar of her. “Nine showed up in the
berry tree that they stripped weeks ago. It was a quick visit and a few
typical winter call and off they went...North!!! Of course there will
be the stragglers but the large numbers are not present.” What evidence
of Meret’s prediction can you see on this week’s migration
maps? Reminder: the map shows distribution, not abundance. Keep watching
of March 9, the robins are being sighted in northwest Iowa.
“Alex and Dillon each saw a robin in their backyards. On March
10, Jessie and Kari each saw a robin. Kari saw the robin in a tree
near the elementary school.”
- East Moline, Illinois, March
11: “The robins have made their visit outside our Kindergarten
window! It is a cloudy day and very windy with snow flurries. The
temperature is 26 degrees. Winds are from the north-northwest at 20
miles per hour with gusts to 32 miles per hour. The barometric pressure
is 30.05 and rising. We have no snow cover. There is a hint of green
to our grassy playground that also has lots of mud!”
- Hazlet, New Jersey, March
10: “I saw my first robin yesterday at school. He must
have been part of the advance party because today the athletic field
was filled with at least 25 robins bouncing along looking for worms.
They were sharing the field with overwintering Canadian geese. It
was fun watching the two groups trying to stay out of each other's
- And where’s the northern-most
song reported to date? Robins started singing March 11 near Missoula,
Montana high school (near the Clark Fork River).
Look, Listen: Robin Video Clips and Journaling Question
showed us how good you are at identifying the robin calls. For all of
you still waiting to hear the alarm call or the true song, take a look
at Julie’s video clips. Our robin expert, Laura Erickson, gives
you a “guided tour” of what you’ll hear and see in
Robin Giving Alarm Call
The robin in this video is alarmed about something. We can tell that
it isn’t the photographer scaring him, because several times when
he’s looking around, we can’t see his eye. That means that
he wasn’t looking at the camera. When we recognize the robin alarm
call, we know that something dangerous is nearby.
Do you think other robins, and other birds, recognize the alarm call?
How can recognizing the robin alarm call help other birds?
We can tell he’s alarmed not only by the calls he’s making,
but also by his posture. Robins flick their wings and tails when alarmed,
and sometimes they crouch. Do you see these actions? All these actions
are similar to what the robin does when he flies off. Alarm displays
help robins. When a robin is alarmed, whatever has made him nervous
may be dangerous enough that he’ll have to leave. Alarm displays
get him ready to take off in a hurry!
Singing Territorial Song
This robin is singing his territorial song. Watch how his throat
puffs out as he sings; air passing through his syrinx
(a bird’s “song box,” which is at the lower end of
the trachea) produces the sound.
During the time he’s singing, you can tell the robin is still
paying attention to everything happening around him. How many times
does he respond to a sight or sound by turning his head?
Tip: Observations Lead to Questions/Cultivating Keen Observers
Scientific investigations typically begin with observations of something
intriguing or baffling. In turn, observations inspire questions. As
you observe the video clips, create a two-column “What I Observe/What
I Wonder” chart in your science journal. Work through the following
categories of questions to inspire deeper levels of observation:
Video clips provide an opportunity for students to make authentic scientific
observations. Here are some suggestions for viewing video clips as a
a Good Territory: Challenge Question #5
Robins migrate by day. As they fly over a neighborhood, they look and
listen for signals that they are over a good territory. One thing they
notice is other robins singing--like you saw in the video clips above.
If they hear a robin song from above, they know that there's a good
territory down below, but it's already taken. But if there is only one
robin singing, there might still be some nice spots available. That
makes us wonder:
Challenge Question #5:
List factors that make for (1) a GOOD robin territory and (2) a POOR
(To respond to this question, please follow the
If you pay attention to where each robin sings and feeds and perches,
you can even draw maps of your neighborhood robin territories. How?
For directions, and for more information to help with Challenge Question
From the Northern Observation Posts
March 3, Ute Kleitsch of Ajax, Ontario, Canada was
thrilled to see her first robin. She said, “I can just see the
look in his body language: Why is it snowing again?” Which birds——eagles
or robins—— do students at Innoko River School (Shageluk,
Alaska) expect to see first? Which FIVE NOPs have reported seeing their
first robins? Find out the latest news. Print out a map of the Northern
Observation Posts and handy record sheets for listing YOUR predictions
and the actual dates of “first seen” and “first song.”
All links are here:
Or go directly
to your prediction charts here:
Temps and Robins: This Week’s Isotherm Map
This week’s isotherm map shows where temps have been warming up!
Robin migration is tightly connected to weather, unlike hummingbird
or oriole migration. Last time we invited you to test the theory that
robins follow the 36- or 37-degree isotherm during migration. (The isotherm
is an imaginary line that connects places having the same average temps.)
Our hands-on lesson shows you how to calculate the isotherm by averaging
the daily temps over a period of time. Learn to calculate the isotherm
for YOUR region and you can test whether robins travel with the isotherm!
Temperature in United States Week ending February 28,
2004 (left) compared with Week ending March
13, 2004 (right).
Photo Courtesy of NOAA
Climate Prediction Center.
map available of entire continent.)
color is the part of the maps showing the average 37-degree isotherm?
the 37-degree isotherm moved in the past 2 weeks?
robin movements shown a pattern similar to the change in the 37-degree
isotherm? (See the migration maps at the top of the report.)
- Do the
changes in where the 37-degree isotherm is correspond to where robins
have been singing?
Bird Contest: Challenge Question #4 Reminder and
Link to Lesson
Now that you’re thinking about the NOPs, thanks to all of you
who have already sent your entries for the Early Bird Contest by predicting:
"When do you think the first robin will be spotted in Anchorage,
Alaska (61.22 N, 149.90 W)? Do you think it will arrive with the 36-degree
(To respond to this question please follow the instructions
There’s still time to enter! How can the Plant Hardiness Zone
Map help you predict when robins will reach the northern limits of their
range? Find out here:
the Expert Now Open
Don't miss the deadline to send your toughest robin questions for Laura
Erickson. She's eager to hear from you! Be sure to send them by the
deadline of March 26, 2004 (noon central time).
That Tune! Answer to Challenge Question #3
Last time you played Name That Tune to see if you could identify which
of 5 robin vocalizations would be hear when robins are back on their
breeding territory. We celebrated to see all the correct answers that
flooded in! Yes, it was #4 vocalization, the true song. Congratulations
to these students for winning Name That Tune!
Mark, Rima, Sinnamon, Om, Jennifer Iselin Middle School/grade
7; Timmy, Shane, Lindsay, Autumn, Jordan and Grant from Grade Two at
Ferrisburgh (Vermont) Central School; Josh; and Amber.
Worming to the Surface? Please Report!
If earthworms have wriggled to the surface where you live, please let
us know! Look for a new map and data on March 26!
to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
IMPORTANT: Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.
1. Address an E-mail message to: email@example.com
2. IMPORTANT: In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question
#4 (OR #5).
3. In the body of the message, answer ONE of the questions above.
The Next Robin Migration Update Will
Be Posted on March 23, 2004 (data only).
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North. All Rights Reserved.
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