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October 4, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: A Flock of Robins

The American Robin is such a common backyard bird that it is often overlooked or taken for granted. Earlier this week a flock of about 40 or 50 robins choose my yard as a rest stop and stayed for three days. I rarely run for the camera when a robin stops by because I see them all time, but this large flock got my attention and were kind enough to pose for a few photos.

Why do robins form a flock?

American Robin

Robins are migratory birds, but their behavior does not fit a set pattern like some of the other song birds that always head to the same roosting grounds for the winter.

In September robins leave their backyard nesting territory and begin to form winter flocks. The size can range from a few birds to thousands of birds. Why do they do this? There is safety in numbers. It’s easier to spot predators and to find food with more eyes. Occasionally other fruit-eating species such as waxwings or blackbirds will travel with the flock.

Where do robins go in the winter?

American Robin

Robins can tolerate the cold and some flocks will stay in the northern states if food remains available. Robin migration is complex and doesn’t follow a typical north-south pattern. Some flocks will wander farther than others, usually in search of food. I often see them during the winter, especially in parks and nature preserves that have native, berry-producing plants.

Why did the flock choose my yard?

American Robin at birdbath

Robins don’t eat seeds or come to bird feeders. In the winter they switch their diet from insects and worms to fruit and berries. The main attractions in my yard are the bird baths – robins love water – and the berries on the Eastern Cedar trees. I have other berry-producing shrubs and trees, but the cedar tree is like a neon sign for the birds.

I don’t use pesticides and landscape with a lot of woodchips and mulch, which translates to lots of insects in the soil. Other ways to help birds during migration and through the cold months are to not prune back flowers and vines, and leave a few small areas ‘messy’ with leaves and clutter. This provides food and shelter.

A youngster takes a bath

Juvenile American Robin

I have four bird baths and one small pond in my backyard plus a birdbath out front. One of them is heated, and that stays out year-round. The birdbaths were very popular and there were often birds waiting in line to jump in (seriously, there was).

Juvenile American Robin

To accommodate the crowds I put out several temporary baths using the bottom saucers from my potted plants. This is an easy and inexpensive way to provide water for the wildlife without the expense and bother of a birdbath.

Even the squirrels are grateful for the water

Fox Squirrel

I usually keep a saucer on the ground all summer for the non-flying wildlife. If I don’t, they will just jump up there anyway.

 


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos.

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13 Comments

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  1. readerbuzz / Oct 4 2014 11:33 am

    Great photos and fascinating info about a common bird!

    Like

  2. Sandra Nachlinger / Oct 4 2014 11:53 am

    Thank you for educating me about robins. We see them almost year-round in our Pacific Northwest backyard. Now I know that it’s the cedar trees, mulch, and creek that keeps them nearby. Your photos are lovely.
    Here’s the link to my snapshots: Cinque Terre.

    Like

  3. joyweesemoll / Oct 4 2014 12:18 pm

    Love the bathing robin photo! We used to not have robins in the winter, but now we do. I was told that Missouri gets Minnesota’s robins in the winter time.

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    • Leslie / Oct 4 2014 8:59 pm

      Missouri is probably mild enough most winters to keep a lot of robins happy. As long as there is food available, the flock will stick around.

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  4. Ginny / Oct 4 2014 1:58 pm

    What lovely photos. The luxury of a heated birdbath. I like the picture of the squirrel having a drink. I get squirrels in my back garden, so must remember to put a drink out for them.

    Like

    • Leslie / Oct 4 2014 9:03 pm

      The heated bird bath gets really popular when it gets below freezing!

      Like

  5. Suko / Oct 4 2014 2:33 pm

    Leslie, as usual your photos are absolutely stunning! You’ve inspired me to put out a few bird baths as well. 🙂

    Like

  6. Arti / Oct 4 2014 4:15 pm

    Interesting, I’d wonder where they go in the winter. I was told by a bird store staff that our robins stay right here and don’t fly away.

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    • Leslie / Oct 4 2014 8:57 pm

      I think your bird store may have been misinformed. Robins move around in search of food. If food is available, some may stay in the area, but others definitely do move south. Banding data has shown that some robins are recovered far from their origin.

      Also, you may have robins wintering in your area that have migrated from even further north. They have been known to nest as far north as the arctic circle and move south in search of food.

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  7. laurelrainsnow / Oct 4 2014 4:36 pm

    Gorgeous shots! You have such lovely bird baths it is no wonder the birds flock there! Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.

    Like

  8. Louise / Oct 5 2014 1:12 am

    How wonderful to have a whole flock of birds in your yard. I get excited when I get 4 galahs or parrots feeding on the ground.

    Like

  9. Leeswammes / Oct 5 2014 10:58 am

    What an honor to receive a so many robins in your garden!

    Like

  10. Booketta / Oct 5 2014 12:26 pm

    I love robins, so pretty. It’s been to warm for them here.

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