Robin Watching and Journaling Suggestions

If you've already spotted your first robin of the season, don't stop looking! You can see all kinds of interesting behaviors by observing robins carefully. Take your journal with you so you can capture what you see and hear and write down questions you have.

  1. Watch for the first female robin to appear. Females usually come 1-2 weeks later than the males. The females' feathers are noticeably duller than those of the male; in fact, they look faded — like clothes that have been through the washing machine too many times. Count the number of days between the arrival of the first robin (presumably a male) and the arrival of the first female. Write down the date when you see your first female.

  2. Try to follow a female for as long as you can. Write down everything she does. Bring a watch along so you can record how long each behavior lasts.

  3. Listen carefully. When male robins arrive, they don't sing as frequently as they do once the females are in town before their eggs hatch. Once a week, go outside where you know there are robins. Sit quietly for 5 minutes and count the number of times you hear a robin sing. How does that number change over time? Try to actually see a robin singing, and watch him as long as you can. Does he stay in the same position on the same branch or does he move around? Is his mouth open or closed while he sings? Does he seem to have his eyes peeled for predators?

  4. Check what time the sun rises in your area. Try to wake up one morning an hour before sunrise. Listen for the first birds to sing. When does the first robin pipe in? What does the sky look like at that time? How many minutes before sunrise does he start up?

  5. Watch for battles between males and between females. What do you notice? When territories are set up for the breeding season, the fiesty males work hard to earn the best land they can. Some robins even battle their own reflections in a window! But males aren't the only ones who fight. Once the females arrive, they often fight one another for the best male and territory.

  6. Watch for as many other interesting behaviors as you can. List the ones you see, describing as many details as you can in your journal. Try to record the date, time, and sex of each bird you're observing. Look for the following behaviors. How many can you spot?

    Singing Bathing
    Fighting Preening
    Hunting for worms Nest building
    Eating other food items (e.g., fruit) Incubating
    Chasing predators Feeding babies
    "Freezing" when a hawk flies over Sleeping

National Science Education Standards

  • Ask a question about objects, organisms, events.
  • Organisms have basic needs. For example, animals need air, water and food.
  • The behavior of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (such as hunger) and by external cues (such as a change in the environment).
  • An organism's behavior patterns are related to the nature of that organism's environment, including the kinds and number of other organisms present, the availability of food and resources, and the physical characteristics of the environment.