American Robin, Turdus migratorius
The American Robin is a familiar neighborhood bird tugging at earthworms on suburban lawns across the United States in summer. Surprisingly, it is also one of the most common birds at the northern limit of the boreal forest in the arctic! In winter these robins retreat to the lower 48 states and often roost in large flocks, sometimes numbering into the hundreds of thousands. More northerly nesters join Tennessee's resident birds during the non-breeding season.
Description: The American Robin is a large thrush with a gray back and wings, a plain orange breast, and a white lower belly. The head is dark with white crescents above and below the eye. The tail is moderately long with white spots at corners of the outer tail feathers.
The female is slightly paler than the male; the juvenile (May-September) looks somewhat similar to the adult, but with black spotting on the underparts and pale spotting on the upperparts.
Weight: 2.7 oz
Voice: The song is a series of melodious liquid phrases, cheerup cheerily cheerily. Calls include a rapid tut tut tut and a chuckling horse-like whinny.
- No other North American bird is gray on the back and wings and has a plain orange breast.
Habitat: Found in forests, woodlands, and gardens. Common in urban and suburban areas, especially where short-grass areas are interspersed with shrubs and trees.
Diet: American Robins eat invertebrates, especially earthworms, and fruit.
Nesting and reproduction: In Tennessee American Robins usually raise two broods of young. Many start nesting in late winter, but peak egg laying is in mid-April.
Clutch Size: 3 to 5 eggs with 4 eggs most frequent.
Incubation: Females incubate the eggs for 12 to 14 days.
Fledging: Both adults feed the young. Fledglings leave the nest in about two weeks and remain dependent on their parents for another two weeks. Second broods are frequently begun before the fledglings from the first brood are fully independent.
Nest: The female builds an open cup-nest of grass and twigs held together with a thick layer of mud and lined with fine dry grass. The nest is usually relatively low in a tree on a firm branch with dense foliage, in the crotch of a large shrub, or occasionally on a ledge or other part of a building. In Tennessee nest heights range from 3 to 40 feet with an average of 11 feet. Old nests may be reused, but more frequently a new nest is build for the next brood.
Status in Tennessee: The American Robin is a common permanent resident across the state. The population in Tennessee, as well as rangewide, is increasing.
- Homesick European settlers named the robin for their beloved and familiar Robin Red-breast, which is similar in appearance, though the two species are not closely related. The all-black European Blackbird, however, is very closely related to the American Robin and has the same body shape and a similar song.
- Earthworms are an important part of the American Robins diet during the breeding season. Unfortunately, their habit of foraging on well-manicured lawns makes them vulnerable to chemical poisoning by lawn-care products.
- Most American Robins in the wild will live about 2 years, but the oldest wild robin on record was nearly 14 years old. Only about one quarter of all young American robins survive the summer in which they were born.
Obsolete English Names: robin, robin red-breast
Best places to see in Tennessee: The American Robin is found in every county in the state and like to be seen on suburban lawns in spring and summer.
For more information:
Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Sallabanks, R. and F. C. James. 1999. American Robin (Turdus migratorius), The Birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.