Are robins a sign of spring?

February 9, 2010

Yesterday it was snowy. I looked up in a tree and here’s what I saw:

Robin on snowy branch.

American Robin in Winter

Yes, right there before my eyes was a robin.  In winter.  In the snow.

So I guess that must mean spring is coming, right?  Cause after all, robins are a sign of spring, right?

Nope.  Not right.

Although some robins do migrate, it’s more a matter of food availability than the weather.  Food is usually more scarce in the winter.  So some robins do migrate… but not all. 

Instead they tend to gather in large flocks during colder months, going to large communal roosts at night.  These flocks tend to stay in more rural areas where there is a better food supply.  Or sheltered in woods.  So although they may not be so readily seen in some places, especially in a more urban environment, there are still robins around.

Robin in winter.

Robin on snowy ground.

Robins aren’t that big on bird feeders for the most part either, being more prone to look for earthworms, insects, fruit and berries.  They will occasionally turn up at feeders for fruit, but since they aren’t there a lot, that may be another reason people don’t realize they are still around.

People probably notice them more in spring because of the breeding dispersal, as the flock breaks up for pairs of robins to go to their own nesting territory.  They are scattered into more places then, and people are also usually outside more to see them.

And of course, there ARE a few more robins, as the ones that DID migrate, come back to the area.  But that doesn’t make robins a sign of spring, since there are some around all year long.

If you want a real sign of spring from the bird world, look for ducks or geese or any other true migratory bird that regularly migrates to and from your area to make an appearance.  When they’re back in the area, ready for another nesting season, spring is on the way!

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