A Welcome Sight

March 17, 2020 by Team Journey North

Robins are spreading out across the Northern Hemisphere as spring officially arrives on March 19. During these difficult times, robins are a welcome sight to all who see and hear them.

“Saw a flock of 20+ Robins at Meadowside Nature Center. Up until now I had only seen 2 or 3 at a time here in Rockville.” Photo by: Lilian (03/05/2020; Derwood, MD)

Robin Sightings Farther North 

Journey North citizen scientists are reporting robin sightings – some earlier than previous years – in the northern reaches of the United States and parts of Canada. 

From Bridgton, ME: Rebecca had, “2 Robins in the front lawn this morning. 8 days earlier than last year.” (03/15/2020)

From Burlington, ON: Suzanne said, “a sure sign spring is finally coming as they [robins] peck on the ground – and snow is ALMOST OVER!!” (03/16/2020)

Watch for Nesting Behavior

As male robins continue to arrive and claim their territory in preparation for the breeding season, watch for and report nesting behavior such as robins collecting nest materials. 

From Boerne, TX: Robin noted, “Two robins, they had nesting material in their beaks.” (03/15/2020)

From Kenosha, WI: Jeremy observed, “There’s this one cute little guy who had seemed to have taken up territory in this one tree. I believe he is acting more territorial and plans to nest in this specific tree. Other robins in the area are still acting in flocking behavior. I’ve seen several, seemingly meeting up in the trees in addition to seemingly hanging out as a group for the time being. There’s many robins in the area, but only a few of them overall have begun nesting.” (03/09/2020)

Hearing Robins?

Across the continent, male robins arrive first on breeding grounds and begin to defend their nesting grounds by singing (and sometimes fighting). Listen for the robin’s territorial song (which is different from other common vocalizations). 

  • Watch for a clear south to north progression on the robin song map
  • Learn to distinguish the True Song from other common vocalizations. Note that some robins may produce the first songs on their wintering grounds, but the vast majority wait until they are on breeding and nesting grounds.

From Evergreen, CO: Tracy observed, “Lots of robins singing and hunting in our yard this morning. We heard the ‘true song’ loud and clear—it woke me up!” (03/08/2020)

From Dayton, OH: Starr said, “The robin I’ve been listening to the past week or more has been singing the “Zeeup!” song, which means it was still part of the migration process. So I’ve been keeping an ear tuned to see when that song might change. Today it did.This morning my little visitor has changed his tune to the “True Song” - which is territorial and means he’s gonna stay here now. I’m thrilled to understand his language a little bit by means of Journey North. You can confirm what you are hearing by listening to their dictionary of robin songs.” (03/16/2020)

Continue to Report Sightings

As the days get longer and snow cover melts away, watch for robins to switch from their winter diet of berries to their spring diet of earthworms. Report what changes you are seeing and hearing. Use the spring checklist to learn what to watch for this spring – first robins, first signing robins, waves of robins, first earthworms, and nesting behavior.

Robin on ground.

Up North

Bridgton, ME (03/15/2020)