Mar 18, 2015 | Featured Web Article

The First Robin of Spring

American robins are found in a variety of habitats, from suburban parks and backyards to mountain meadows.

Try to spot a robin tomorrow at 6:44 p.m. EDT. It will be the last robin of winter. If you watch it long enough, it could turn into the first robin of spring right before your eyes! Spring begins at 6:45 p.m. EDT March 20 this year.

It's possible that you've been seeing robins all winter long—they winter throughout most of the Lower 48. Some do head south for the winter—at least, those that nest across Canada and Alaska. That means there are more robins in the continental U.S. during the winter than in the summer. Their behavior changes with the seasons so we are less likely to see them in the winter—except for folks who spend a lot of time in forests.

When the ground is frozen and earthworms and insects are not available as a food source, the robin's diet turns primarily to the fruits of the forest hanging dried on dormant twigs, such as wild cherry and more than 50 other types of fruit-bearing plants. Fruit makes up 90 percent of the robin's diet in fall and winter, but only 10 percent of it in spring.

About a month ago, when thick ice glazed the branches of trees on the mountains I drove past, huge flocks of robins descended upon the trees in the slightly warmer urban and suburban areas nearby, where crabapples and holly offered fruit not quite so frozen. The winter robins were the talk of the nursing home I was visiting.

Good luck spotting the first robin of spring tomorrow evening. And don't forget to keep an eye out for the last robin of winter, too.

About Dawn Hewitt

Dawn Hewitt is the editor at Watching Backyard Birds and Bird Watcher's Digest. She has been watching birds since 1978, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald-Times, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.

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