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Friday, February 14, 2014

Harbinger of Spring?

My mom excitedly emailed this photograph to me the other day with the question: "Does the Robin know something the groundhog (and weatherman) do not?"   Sadly, the answer to her question (and many more) is no. 

So why isn't a robin the harbinger of spring? While many of us think of robins in the spring eating worms off the driveway after the rainstorms, they do stick around in the winter.   While robins are migratory, not all robins will migrate.  Their patterns are difficult to detect--they seem to migrate based on food source which changes with the seasons.  Throughout the spring and summer months, they are more interested in worms, grubs, and other creepy crawly ground dwellers however in the fall/winter months robins turn into fruit eaters.  They will stick around somewhere with plentiful berries and wait out the cold winter months.  In general, most migration patterns follow food sources more than temperature, though the two often correlate. 

The patterns of robins will be different in the winter months.  They have a tendency to flock up more often.  Larger flocks mean that they have more eyes watching for predators and finding food.   A telltale sign that spring is arriving is when you start to notice more individual robins, and they are singing!  This means that they are defending their territory--if you have ever watched a robin throughout the spring, you will know that they are very territorial birds. 

So, while the sight of a robin in the winter months does not mean that spring is coming (no matter how hard we wish); the sight of a single singing robin may very well predict the entrance of spring.  Learn more fun facts about our over wintering friends by attending tomorrow's Wildlife In Winter program at Bucktoe Creek Preserve. 

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