American Robin, Turdus migratorius
Look around for these red-breasted thrushes flying, nesting, or hopping on the ground. Can you tell what they are eating this time of year?
The American robin, Wisconsin’s state bird, is the 2nd-most common bird in North America after the red-winged blackbird. It splits its diet roughly equally between berries and small bugs such as worms; this diversity allows it to survive in much colder climates than other birds.
Robins are a notorious “sign of spring” in northern latitudes, returning early from winter migrations south. They begin to breed just weeks after returning in the spring, having 2-3 broods of eggs each year, with an average of 3-5 eggs per brood. Both the male and female feed their young small bugs or fruit, and the female loves to keep her nest clean!
Warmer climates in low elevations provide an early signal for the robin to migrate north in spring, which can spell problems as warmer temperatures affect different ecosystems in different ways. Some robins return to higher elevations in the north, which may actually experience more snow with warmer climates, delaying growth of wildflowers and fruit-bearing plants and keeping worms underground, out of hungry robins’ beaks after a long flight. With no fruit or insects around when they return, can you think what might happen to migrating birds like robins as Earth’s climate warms?