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American Robin Migration Update: February 15, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

American Robin Sightings

Winter Robin Round-Up: The Results Are In!
Where are robins found in February? And what are they doing? Thanks to Journey North observers across the U.S. and Canada, today's map and the observers' comments provide a good picture of robins in winter-time.

Are You Ready to Track Robin Migration?
While this map shows WHERE robins were found in early February, it does not show HOW MANY were found at each place. (Or as scientists would say, the map shows robin "DISTRIBUTION" but does not show robin "ABUNDANCE".) The fact is that, even though robins are already spread across a large portion of their range, we're about to see huge masses of them move across the continent. The abundance of robins is about to shift dramatically from south to north.

Robins Behaving as Expected
As is typical of mid-winter, here's how robins were observed behaving at the many winter locations:

A few hardy robins are spending the winter alone in northern areas, even where snow is covering the ground. People are observing robins in flocks, and these flocks are seen coming and going, in response to cold weather and snow. The robins are eating fruit from many different kinds of trees. Robins prefer habitat without snow: Several people saw them gathered together on the ground in small patches where the snow had melted in the warm February sun. Finding water is a challenge: One robin was seen drinking water as it dripped from the roof as the snow melted. Robins were:
  • looking for rosehips on rose bushes and sumac bushes which still had berries.
  • searching for any berries that remained on sumac and mountain ash
  • flitting about in holly bush next to the house
  • hoards of robins are eating the berries off the pyracantha or firethorn bushes
  • eating the dried leftovers from the apple and crabapple orchards and from the grape arbor
  • 40 robins were observed in the crabapples and on the bare ground
  • about 25 robins were flying over the playground
  • evenly spaced about 3 feet apart in an area the size of 1/2 a football field
  • large flock (approx. 100) together, flying overhead & perching in trees and bushes.
  • observed a flock of 70 American Robins.
  • 10 to 20 robins in every tree you looked at, it looked like a robin festival.

Challenge Question #1
"The robin behaviors listed above are typically seen in February. Which things would you NOT see during the breeding season? Why?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Restless Robins Stirring in the South
Robins in southern regions are clearly staging for migration:

From Alabama:
"I thought there were a lot of robins the other day, but today the number has quadrupled. At 9 am, in a local field, there were robins evenly spaced about 3 feet apart in an area the size of 1/2 a football field. And the numbers had scarcely diminished by dinner time. With 10 to 20 robins in every tree you looked at, it looked like a robin festival. The birds are acting very feisty - we've had a sudden burst of spring-like temperatures lately."
Elizabeth Armistead, Montgomery, AL (32.39 N, -86.32 W)

From Georgia:
"There were robins all over the trees, rolling through the area. They have been seen all around town. It has been so quiet in the morning and now the birds sounded like spring!!"Demorest Elementary, Clarkseville, GA (34.68 N, -82.53 W)

Whose Robins Might These Be?

Challenge Question #2
"Where might robins that winter in Alabama and Georgia go to breed in the spring?"

1) Use data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Laboratory to find out. Each student should choose one of 39 states and provinces for which data is available.

* The data is arranged according to where the robins were BANDED.
* All robins were banded during the breeding season.

2) For each state/province, look at the latitude and longitude for each record. The lat/long shows where each banded robin was RECOVERED. All recoveries were during winter months.

3) Your challenge is to find a bird that was RECOVERED in Alabama or Georgia. In which state was the bird BANDED? By reviewing this data collected from real migratory robins, you can answer the Challenge Question above.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions

IMPORTANT: Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #1 (or #2)
3. In the body of each message, answer ONE of the questions above.

The Next Robin Migration Update Will be Posted on February 29, 2000.

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