Robin Song Study

Male robins may be the singers of the species, but both males and females make a wide variety of other vocalizations. Males usually sing the most while females are incubating. Do the birds in your neighborhood follow this rule? Use these tips to help you study robin songs.

1. Keep a five-minute count of robin songs in the early morning, late morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, early evening, and nighttime. Do this on three different days and record results in a 3-column chart in your journal. What did you find out? In your journal, write your responses to these questions:

  • Do robins sing more at a particular time of day?
  • Do the songs sound different at different times of day?
  • Do their songs change according to the stage of the nesting cycle?

2. Time some robin songs at different times of day.

  • When are the songs the longest? When shortest?
  • What other sounds do robins make?
  • If they notice you studying their nest, do they make a scolding sound or warning cry?

Do you notice that robins can sing for long stretches without stopping? We humans need to pause to take a breath now and then when we are singing or speaking. This is because our sound is only produced as we breathe out. But birds can make sounds while breathing both in and out, like we can when we play a harmonica.

3. When you hear a robin making a sound, try to discover what that call means. Robins have one alarm call when they notice hawks and another for ground predators. They make a different sound when they discover a cat near their nest than when they discover a nearby human. If possible, tape record your robins. How many different calls can you hear? Some ornithologists have described various robin calls as "teek," "tuk-tuk," "teacheach," and "eee." How would you describe the calls you hear?

Try This! Journaling Question

  • Keep track of robin sounds in your journal, and the circumstances in which the sounds are made. Make note of your own progress in being able to tell what's going on by hearing the robin sound before you see the circumstances.
  • Learn how some ornithologists interpret robin vocalizations. See:

    Robin Vocalization Lesson

National Science Education Standards

  • Plan and conduct a simple investigation.
  • Use data to conduct a reasonable explanation.
  • Behavior is one kind of response an organism can make to an internal or environmental stimulus.