The Adventures of Robin Hood!
March, 2004

"Robin Hood" in summer

These are the notes Julie Brophy recorded in March, 2004, about her little friend, Robin Hood, who has just returned to her yard (his territory) for the 4th year in a row.

The pattern that I have observed is that when RH first arrives in the yard (territory), he takes some period of time to be comfortable again. For instance, he does not initially approach me closely and does not initially come when I call him. However, he does come closer than other robins, and he is less easily frightened than other robins. I believe his top priority when he first arrives is establishing his territory. Only after he has either reestablished his territory or has become more comfortable again within the territory does he take the time to actually approach me closely or come to the feeding area.

"Robin Hood's" early spring territory
("Launching pad" is in foreground)

Below is a listing of when robins first arrived in my yard each spring, and the date when RH confirmed he was there by coming up close (within a foot or two) to me and in the feeding area:

First Robins
Confirmed RH
2001 March 21
April 9
2002 March 26
April 14
2003 March 16
March 19

March 8

March 20

I observed three robins in the yard today feeding on dried crabapples on a Prairie Fire crab tree. My first thought was--are these overwintering robins that have just found another food source, or are they spring migrants? What would you think? My clue they were migrants: They were vocal ("peek and tuk" calls, no territorial calls, but they were behaving in a somewhat restless manner--never staying put for long and a little uneasy.) I knew the migrants had arrived, but I didn't know if Robin Hood was among them. Had Robin Hood returned to the same yard four years in a row?

Today I was out walking the dog when I first heard and then saw a male robin about 20 feet up on top of our garage. He wasn't afraid of me and was softly singing the robin territorial song. Not knowing for sure if it was Robin Hood, I called out to him--was it Robin Hood?

6:45 p.m. (very cold night expected)
I was downstairs eating dinner when in the corner of my eye I saw a bird fly up to RH's "launching pad"--a tree branch that is located about 15 feet from a balcony where RH is fed. I ran upstairs to see if it was him. He was singing a very soft territorial song, watching me and facing my direction (towards the house). I placed some worms on the balcony, called his name, but by the time I did he had seen another robin and flew off. Was it Robin Hood? I definitely think so. Being on the launching pad when I stand just feet away on our balcony is unique to RH. So, this was the first day I really knew it was him. His plumage looks flawless and he looks very healthy.

Robin Hood on "launching pad" in Bur Oak tree last summer

It's been confirmed! I heard a robin calling and went to the balcony to see if it might be Robin Hood. Before I could get our sliding door open, there he was on the launching pad calling to me--a softer version of the whinny call. I placed mealworms in a dish and under a table (I like to provide him with some protection from hawks), and per his usual behavior, as soon as I closed the sliding door part way he flew to the dish, just 2-3 feet away from me. No other robin would ever do this. Welcome back Robin Hood!

Robin Hood on the deck, under the cover of table and chairs to help shield him from the sight of hawks who might make a meal of him

Try This! Journaling Questions
  • Banding studies show that many robins return near their birthplace every year. This is the fourth year Robin Hood (RH) has returned to the same back yard. How do robins know which territory (yard) to come back to every year?
  • After seeing her first Robin, why does Julie wait for a while to decide if she's actually seeing Robin Hood? Why can't she just decide when she first sees a bird that looks like RH?
  • All robins basically look the same, so how does Julie know it's RH that's come back to her yard for the fourth year in a row? What signs or behaviors help Julie to be sure it's RH? Why is it important to be certain it's Robin Hood?