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American Robin Migration Update: March 30, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

(To view data reported, click on caption below each map.)

First Robins

of Robins

First Robins Heard Singing

Latest Migration News: Singing Robins Across Canada’s Border!
“Finally, at 7 am March 28 I heard and saw my first Robin this spring. A lonely guy at the very top of our birch tree. A lot of birds have come back this week, reports Dominique from our Northern Observation Post way up in St. Sauveur Des Monts, PQ, Canada. Indeed, the first full week of spring brought many reports of first robins, waves of robins, and singing robins. Can you see a clear migration pattern on the maps? Where waves and individuals have been reported, the first robins are beginning to claim territories and start singing. The robin migration continues its steady march northward, and many of you shared exciting news for this report.

These maps are snapshots of the migration on March 28, but the maps change every minute on our new MapServer. Almost as soon as you report your first robin, your data will show on the MapServer. Please remember to report your sightings, and then watch the migration’s progress on the MapServer between our Journey North Robin Reports!

Robins Arriving! Your Observations
“The Robins have arrived! They must've come in Friday night with the warm front. Friday afternoon it was 69 degrees and we had our classroom windows open for the first time. Saturday morning when I woke up I heard Robin vocalizations everywhere, including the "cheery cheer up" song. During the weekend I saw Robins bouncing around on lawns all around the school. Our tulips were up this week too. What a great spring week this has been.” (Ms. Karelitz, Moharimet School, Madbury, NH)

In Haliburton, Ontario, Canada, Louise put her baby monitor to a new use: “My trusty outdoor baby monitor did it again, alerting me to the presence of robins this morning (March 28)--at least six, all flying overhead with their red breasts gleaming in the rising sun.”

In Woburn, Massachusetts, Mrs. Cerullo’s grade 7 classes have been practicing identifying the robins' vocalizations. By March 18 several students had reported hearing the typical Robin Song. “Even though we have 8 inches of snow on the ground, we believe that Spring has sprung!”

Waves of robins are moving north, too:
“I heard several robins throughout the neighborhood. Since I am blind and do all my birding by ear, I can't say I saw them but they are here. Two of them were singing on territory and most of the rest were scolding. Although this was not the first robin of the season for me, it was the first real wave from all I can tell.” (Cerise from St. Cloud, MN on March 19)

Migration Math Journaling: Where Was Your Robin Yesterday?
Did you know that all these robins migrate at a speed of about 30 miles per hour? Robins can migrate during day or night. They average 38 miles per day, but some days they don't migrate at all. Other days they can go many times that distance.

Journaling Questions:

  • On the first day of spring last week, when night was exactly as long as day everywhere on the planet, how far did a night-flying robin travel if it flew for 6 hours?
  • When your first robin of spring arrives, look on a map and see if you can guess what town it might have left the night before. Then write in your science journal: "The robin that landed this morning in my town of ______ probably flew ___ km/miles on a 6-hour journey overnight. If it flew straight north, it may have traveled all the way from _____(name of town km/miles directly to the south). If it flew northwest, it may have traveled all the way from ______(name of town km/miles directly to the southeast) If it flew northeast, it may have traveled all the way from (name of town km/miles directly to the southwest)."

Journey North Students Make Headlines in Oradell, New Jersey
Tracking springtime’s first robins with Journey North is not only fun, but sometimes it gets you some press! NewsHouse reporter Dru Sefton interviewed principal Scott Ryan and some K-6 students in the school’s weather club, who are busy reporting new robin sightings on the school announcement system each morning. Meet the students and hear what they say. You may learn surprising things about Journey North, too!

Link to
Newspaper Feature on Journey North Students
in Oradell, NJ

Photo Credit: Jane Therese

He’s Back! The Adventures of Robin Hood
Do you think all robins look pretty much alike? Journey North writer Julie Brophy knows how careful observers can tell robins apart. Julie recognizes her robin, and each spring she looks for him. She’s been rewarded FOUR years in a row. Yes, Julie’s “Robin Hood” has returned! Banding studies show that many robins return near their birthplace every year. This is the fourth year Robin Hood (RH) has returned to the same back yard. After seeing her first Robin, why do you think Julie wait for a while to decide if she's actually seeing Robin Hood? What signs or behaviors help Julie to be sure it's RH? Why is Julie careful to place Robin Hood’s mealworm snacks under an outdoor table with chairs? See Julie’s photos and field notes and you’ll find out!

Link to
Julie’s Field Notes:
The Adventures of Robin Hood! (March 2004)

If you liked reading about Robin Hood, you’ll like Julie’s field notes about another robin buddy. (Robins look pretty much the same for their entire adult lives. How do you think Buddy recognized Julie when she wore different clothes every day?)

Stop, Look, Listen: Video Clip and Journaling Question
Did you know that you’ve already seen Robin Hood for yourself? The two video clips in our March 16 report starred Robin Hood. Here’s another of Julie’s video clips, also taken last summer.
Video 1: Robin Hood Running
Watch It Now
Video 2: Robin Hood Running Slow Motion
Watch It Now

First, see these comments from Journey North’s Robin Expert Laura Erickson to guide your viewing:
“This robin is running on the pavement. Notice how he runs a short distance, searches, and runs again. Do you notice him poop? Healthy, well-fed robins eliminate their wastes several times every hour. Their intestines are much shorter than most mammal intestines, so they eliminate wastes as quickly as they produce them. Small rodents must do the same thing, as anyone who has ever held a gerbil, hamster, or pet mouse knows! It’s even easier to see the robin poop in this slow-motion version (video 2) of the same video clip.”

Try This! Journaling Question:

  • If all robins poop so much, how do they keep their nests and babies clean?

Listening or Looking? Challenge Question #6
Mrs. Kloewer from York (Nebraska) Middle School wrote on March 10: “The first big wave of robins has finally arrived! The lawns are full of big, fat robins. We think the earthworms are up, too, because the robins seem to be watching the ground carefully and picking at something.”

On March 16, Marne in Michigan wrote: “The sun's first peek over the horizion was greeted with the joyful bubbling music of our group of robins. After that first burst of rippling notes, the robins are quietly stalking the lawn in front of our big shop.”
These comments make us wonder how you’ll answer:

Challenge Question #6:
"When a robin hunting for food cocks its head, do you think it's listening or looking?"

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

Tracking Temps and Robins: This Week’s Isotherm Map and Observation
“Early in the morning on March 27th, we heard the robin's familiar song and went looking for him - and found him in our yard about 12:45 pm flying parallel to our creek. We checked our isotherm reading for the week and our average temperature for this week was 31.9 degrees!” (Luke, Sixth Grade Homeschooler in Chelsea, VT.) Hooray for Luke! Readers, what do you think of those results? Are YOU tracking the isotherm with YOUR robins.

  1. Has the 37-degree isotherm moved in the past two weeks?
  2. Have robin movements shown a pattern similar to the change in the 37-degree isotherm? (Compare with the migration maps at the top of the Web report.)
  3. Do the changes in where the 37-degree isotherm is correspond to where robins have been singing?

For instructions to calculate the isotherm in YOUR region, see:

Ute's robin in a Corkscrew Hazel.

News From the Northern Observation Posts (NOPs)
It’s officially spring, and a few more observers in the far north have seen their first robins. Who heard the first song of the season? How much rain fell on the snow in Pinawa, MB, Canada? Who has a robin nesting box? Read their comments and catch up with your NOP prediction charts. Find all links here:

Are You Ready to Play Ask the Expert? Challenge Question #7
Wayne Dwornik, our Northern Observation Post in Lethbridge AB, Canada, heard his first robin sing on March 22! But Wayne has a question. He hoped a robin he saw in his back yard was spying out his robin nesting box. “We've had this box for at least 8 years now and never a nest, ... yet.” Wayne wonders what suggestion we have for his nesting box. We thought YOU would like to play “Ask the Expert” and do some research. How would you answer Wayne’s Question below?(Hint: See our Robin lessons page.)

Challenge Question #7:
“What advice would you tell Wayne about the use and placement of robin nesting boxes?”

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

Early Bird Contest Update: Challenge Question #4 Reminder
Challenge Question #4 asked, "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 isotherm?" Several of you have sent your entries, and the contest is still open because students at Sand Lake Elementary in Anchorage are still waiting for their first robin! Have you sent us your prediction for Challenge Question #4?

Spotting a Good Territory: Discussion of Challenge Question #5
Last time we asked you to “List factors that make for (1) a GOOD robin territory and (2) a POOR robin territory” after reading our lesson about recognizing a good territory from above. Three cheers for Ferrisburgh (VT) Central School second-graders Lindsay, Tim, Jordan, Autumn, Shane and Grant AND fourth-grader Mallika from Harrington School in Lexington, MA. All did their research and good, thorough thinking to bring you these answers:

A good robin territory would have:

  • Food--a lot of earthworms and berries and fruit trees for an emergency (cold weather, no worms yet)
  • Water. Robins like ponds, lakes, and streams, or some source for fresh water...
  • Safety--not a lot of predators, not a lot of loud noises, not have too many people around
  • Shelters or places to build nests, like near roofs or in pine trees
    (The second graders said, “We have seen robins build nests in milk cartons on porches or in the letters on a big store sign.”)
  • Open spaces so the robins can see what is coming
  • LAWN-Robins like grassy green lawns so they can have a good view to watch out for predators and for Earthworms...
  • Other robins nearby--so they can mate and make friends...
    All of you agreed that a POOR robin territory would have few food sources; be very noisy and busy; have no lawns or water sources; have no safe places to nest; have a lot of places for predators to hide; and have bigger birds like hawks and other predators.

Now you’re ready to answer the next question!

The Early Bird Gets the _________?
You might have said worm, but after studying the sections above, you may also know that an early bird also gets. . .the best territory!
Why is a good nesting territory so important to a robin? First, robins need safe places for building nests and laying eggs. After the eggs hatch, the territory has to provide food not only for ravenous nestlings, but for the parents as well. In two weeks in the nest, each young robin may eat 14 feet of earthworms, and earthworms aren't even their main food! How can parents keep up with the demands of such a hungry brood? Hunting and feeding takes every waking hour. In the northern latitudes of Alaska, feeding time may extend to 21 hours a day. A robin makes an average of 100 feeding visits to its nest each day. With that schedule, there's no time to go far for food--another reason why a good territory is important.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:

IMPORTANT: Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #6 (OR #7).
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.

The Next Robin Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 6* (Migration Data Only*)

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