Friday, February 09, 2007

Wintering Robins

(enjoying a snack in January at the UW Arboretum)

A reader sent in the following observation/question:

We had about 6-8 Robins in the backyard this a.m.? Appeared they were mostly interested in the water... But what are Robins doing around here in this cold weather?

While nearly all American Robins head southward during fall migration, there are many to be found throughout winter in Wisconsin. The UW Arboretum has a small population of robins that overwinter. At Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, I routinely find American Robins throughout winter near sources of food (fruit berries) and natural springs. Are these birds non-migratory? Probably not. Robins we see this time of year most likely migrated from the northernmost portions of the breeding range in Canada, thus Wisconsin may be the furthest south they'll travel.


American Robin range map © BNA

Their survival here gives them the advantage of not having to fly north as far come spring. Nevertheless, populations of robins will move around throughout winter in search of food. Robins further south begin their northward migration early February, reaching the mid southern states by March. Of course, it's also possible that some robins seen around Wisconsin are non-migratory. It's hard to know for sure where the robins you're seeing are from, but they're probably not the same birds you see in your backyard in June. One thing is for sure, American Robin migration is much more complex than I've attempted to describe here.

Link: Where are American Robins now?

American Robin image © 2007 Mike McDowell

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