About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The #GreatBackyardBirdcount (#GBBC): American Robins

Good day, Back in 2014 I sent you a question concerning robins that had shown up in February. After not seeing them since that winter, they're back. They gather around the heated birdbath I've placed on the ground to provide a source of open water for the winter (used by rabbits, various birds, squirrels, feral cats). The attached picture shows them yesterday (2-9-2019) when the temperature was -10. They were gathered all day, and I had to refill the birdbath. They're back again today (2-10-2019, temp +11) en masse. Fun to watch them, glad I can be of service to them. Feel free to use this information and pictures as you see fit. Paul

It does feel strange to see the American Robins in our backyards during the winter months. Fun fact, a group of robins are collectively known as a "worm" of robins. In the winter, robins have a nomadic lifestyle, wandering widely looking for food and water that isn't depleted or covered in snow. If you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of American Robins reported in most states year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero.

Their diet changes from mostly worms and insects to fruit, nuts and berries. I’ve seen them devouring our crab apples, Mountain Ash tree berries, and sometimes under my feeders looking for nuts or dried mealworms. They also appreciate open water in the winter as you've discovered. If you have a pond or heated birdbath they may show up intermittently for afternoon drinks.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about birds, but there is a way to help personally. The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is an annual four-day event in February that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are all over the world.[1] 

From the past bird counts, researchers at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology have an unprecedented wealth of data to create a snapshot of bird distribution and the effects of weather. BirdScope magazine wrote “food availability may be the primary factor influencing some species’ winter ranges, but snow cover may also play a role. Results from the GBBC and other continent-wide monitoring projects show that American Robins overwinter across North America in a patchy mosaic, primarily reflecting their opportunity to forage on fruits and berries. When snow cover is high and food is difficult to find, American Robins move farther south. When snow cover is low and food is more readily available, they seem to overwinter in northern locales in higher numbers.” [2]

Thank you for sharing your observations and beautiful photographs. If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo

1. Wild Birds Unlimited helps sponsor the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/
Related Article: 
Photo Share: Mottled Robin http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2014/03/photo-share-mottled-robin.html

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