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Meet American Robin

The American robin is most abundant songbird in North America. It was named the state bird of Michigan in 1931.

Some robins spend the winter in Michigan, but most of them head south to the Gulf Coast and Mexico at the end of August. We have a lovely robin print on our site. They come back to breed in February and March and are one of the earliest birds to lay their eggs. The female alone builds the nest, which consists of long coarse grass, twigs, paper, and feathers, and is smeared with mud and often cushioned by more grass or other soft materials.

The female lays three to five blue eggs and incubates them by herself. The eggs hatch after about two weeks. The chicks are naked and have their eyes closed for the first few days after hatching. They are fed earthworms, insects, and berries by both parents for about two weeks and are then ready to leave the nest. They become capable of sustained flight about two weeks after that. Immediately after the fledglings leave, the female starts to build a new nest and lay eggs for a second brood. Some robins even have three broods in one season.

Robins mostly eat earthworms and insects, such as beetle grubs, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. They forage primarily on the ground and find food by sight (and sometimes by hearing). They typically will take several short hops and then cock their heads left, right, or forward to detect movement of their prey. In the late summer, many robins switch to eating fruit and berries.

Male robins have a complex and almost continuous song. They are often the first songbirds to sing at dawn and last to sing at sunset. They also sing when storms approach and again when storms have passed. In addition to their song, robins have other calls they use to warn of danger. Even during nesting season, when they otherwise are highly territorial, robins may band together to drive away a predator. The domestic cat is the main predator of adult robins, but they are also preyed upon by hawks and snakes. Juvenile robins and eggs are eaten by squirrels, snakes, and some birds, such as blue jays.

As one of the first songbirds back to Michigan in the early spring, I absolutely delight in these common but charming migrants. During the winter, it is still and silent in the early dawn and late dusk. But one morning, usually in late March, there is the familiar joyous song of a male Robin welcoming the rising sun. That singular song, more than the geese cleaving the March clouds or the unseen Sandhill cranes flying high above is the moment I breathe in the often bitter March chill and thing, "it's spring".

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