Yesterday, there he was right in the front yard the first sign of spring, a Robin. Then I gave it some thought, what do I really know about this creature?
First, the real full name is the American Robin and actually it is a migratory thrush. So you may wonder why we call this Turdus migratorius, a Robin rather than a thrush. Well, we have to look back in our history to our early English colonists.
Apparently our ancestors were not exactly the best ornithologists but they did have memory of the robin red-breast of Europe, which as it turns out, is not even closely related to the bird we now know as the American Robin. The most widespread thrush in North America did have similar markings as the beloved birds remembered from life in England, so our settlers called them robins and never let the facts of science prevail.
In 1943 the Connecticut State Legislature, in the middle of World War Two decided that a most pressing issue of our time was the need for an official State Bird. I seem to remember in our history books stories of gas and food rationing, carnage and sacrifice but that was all put aside to spend legislative time and resources on the selection, and designation of an official State Bird. So it was in 1943 our Legislators voted to honor the thrush known as the American Robin as our official State Bird. (Kind of makes you wonder about the slur, “bird-brained legislature” but let’s save that for another day)
Today even our school children are taught to recognize our State Bird, but what was taught long ago, you may ask. The Native American mythology taught that the red breast of our robin came from the day the bird saved a man and his boy by fanning the dying flames of a campfire. (Now doesn’t that make you wonder about grandpa’s stories of an old flame and the fan dance stories of vaudeville?)
Was it really a sign of spring to see a robin? We all grew up with the idea that the first sign of spring was a robin on the front lawn. Hence the picture above, I figured it was important to catch the event when it happens on January 14th, heck the ground hog will have to read this just to know what to do in February.
Another myth shattered, yesterday when I found out that it is common for robins to spend the entire winter here in New England. Yes, they remain in the swamp areas, roosting in evergreens and feeding on winter berries. I guess that makes sense since even the early bird can forget about their summer diet when frozen ground protects the earthworm from a ravenous robin.
Thinking about robin food did you ever wonder how a robin finds the worms for dinner? Now this is interesting; a Robin uses auditory, visual, olfactory and maybe vibrotactile cues to find dinner. While most often the hunt is visual they have the ability to hunt by hearing. Frequently you will see a Robin take several quick hops and then cock their head side to side or forward as a method to detect movement of their prey. So it is dinner time for the Robin, a hop, skip and jump that worm.
Yup, it was warm yesterday and maybe spring will arrive early, at least the Robins are here ready for the worms. So there you have it, the Robin has been seen and photographed. (see above photo) The second guessing on the arrival of spring by the ground hog will be held on February 2nd. For now I say bring it on and the sooner the better.