Migration Update: March 22, 2011
Please Report
Your Sightings!

More robins pushed into Canada this week, eagerly awaited at their summer homes. Observers report more robins exhibiting spring-like behaviors. For example, it's worm hunting season and people watch with wonder: How do robins find earthworms? What senses do they use?

This Week's Report Includes:

Image of the Week

Stop, look and listen as we celebrate the arrival of spring! You can discover a lot by observing. Could you discover how this robin found that worm? More

The Migration: What's Happening Now & What to Watch For

What's Happening Now
"We have been hearing them for days, but now my students and I have had sightings over the weekend. Welcome spring!" proclaimed a 5th grade teacher from Ironwood, MI.

Yes, the birds, the observers and now the calendar say spring is here. This week robins pushed into Canada. Of 82 "first" sightings reported during the past week, one-fourth were north of the U.S. border:

"Went outside with my camera and found a Male Robin skating on our frozen swamp! Not sure why he was doing it, but it sure was fun to watch! It's so nice to know that this long winter is blowing away!" Saskatchewan

Yet, our American robin expert is in Duluth, MN, impatiently waiting for the 36-degree isotherm and major robin movements to reach her. ”I’m so hungry to hear a robin singing!” said Laura Erickson.

It's a different story in other parts of the country. Click into the sightings reports to see for yourself what's happening now.

Photo: Laura Erickson

Why is this robin's beak open?
Photo: Ken Moore
What can you learn from observing this robin in Alberta, Canada?

What to Watch For
Female robins: Females arrive after the males, by days or even weeks. Click on the photo and learn how to tell them apart. Watch for the first females to appear in your backyard.

Claiming territories: See the Robin Checklist for Spring Observations so you know what to watch for.

"The male robin in our barren cottonwood tree was singing a song to mark his territory. Then, we were able to observe two male robins in our front yard battling for quite a while, and red breast feathers went flying through the air!" Aberdeen, SD

"Observed 2 close on the ground, but flying at each other. Squabbling. Robins observed where grass shows through melted snow, hopping then looking, then pecking at (bugs/worms) grabbing whatever it caught." Sheboygan, WI

Try This! Build your birdwatching skills as you take time to observe, draw and write about your robins this wonderful spring.

Which is Male? Which is Female?


Checklist for Spring Robin Observations

FIRST Robins

This Week's Featured Map

Map Questions/ Journal Page

Explore: What Senses Do Robins Use to Find Worms?

"Clans of robins are out scouring the yard and woods for worms! There will be 15-20 in one spot just working the ground. You can actually see the dust flying when they flip up leaves! Loving spring!" cheered an observer in Roanoke, VA, this week. But why did the robins think worms were there?

An ornithologist named Dr. Frank Heppner wanted to know how robins located earthworms. He set up experiments, knowing he would need to investigate all the robin's senses. Before reading about his experiments, take a peek at the materials Dr. Heppner used and think about how he used each item to investigate robin senses.

How could you test?
Is the robin looking, listening, feeling, smelling — or tasting?


Looking Ahead: A Challenge from Alaska


Just in: A message to you from Ms. Hamilton's class at Innoko River School in Shageluk, Alaska. In next week's report you'll hear more about these students and all the other yellow stars on our map (Northern Observation Posts), who are waiting for robins at the end of the migration trail. For now:


We're just cleaning up from a wonderful Iditarod Sled Dog Race! They journeyed the southern route this time so they came through our village. The temps were warm, in the 20s with clear, sunny skies but we are still locked in ice and snow.

NO SPRING BIRDS yet but we expect them ANY day!


"Our first spring migratory bird sightings are Bald Eagles and/or Snow Buntings. We've had Bald Eagles as early as March 3, 2004 and Snow Buntings as early as March 21 —which leads us to a challenge question and we hope to hear from YOU!" Ms. Hamilton's class

Research Question and Links: Investigate!
This Week's Research Question: Other links to explore:

How do a robin's senses compare to our own?

Explore this link to do your research:

Please Report Your Sightings!
The First Robin You

Robins migrating in Waves

The First Robin You
Hear Singing

Your first sighting of Earthworms

More Robin Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

The Next Robin Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 29, 2011.