Ladies Second!

Which is the male? Which is the female?

When you see your first robin, look closely at its coloring. Male robins usually arrive on the breeding grounds a few days to two weeks before the females return. You can tell male robins because their head and tail feathers are very dark black and their breast feathers very bright orange in comparison to those of the female. When the first females arrive later, you'll notice their plummage appears faded and drab in comparison to the male plumage.

Try this!

  1. Count the Days: After you've seen your first robin this spring, count how many days go by before you see the first female. Students who notice robins in their yards should count the days between the arrival of the males and the females. Does everyone get the same result?
  2. Journal: Why do you think male robins arrive before the females? What are the advantages and risks of migrating earlier? What are the advantages and risks of arriving later? How are these advantages and risks different for males than for females?

National Science Education Standards

  • The characteristics of an organism can be described in terms of a combination of traits.
  • An organism's behavior patterns are related to the nature of that organism's environment.