Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Unparalleled Early Bird: American Robin

American Robin Turdus Migratorous
A flock of robins flew into my yard today on an icy-cold gust of wind. There were a dozen or more of these neighborly birds. They gathered around the fishpond in the spot where the water is kept thawed by a small heater and a bubbler - both installed to keep the fish alive. I thought they were rather far north for the time of year. A visit to the Great Backyard Bird Count site revealed that robins are not commonly found at this time, but when they are it's typically in flocks. I was happy to see them because here, as in other parts of the country, the local folk acclaim them the official harbingers of spring.

(I tried taking photographs with my point-and-shoot through a not-too-clean kitchen window, but the pond is too far away, so I apologize for the picture quality.)

 My intrepid visitors soon found the heated birdbath on the back porch. They dominated the dish for a couple of hours, joined occasionally by some of the regular guests.

Through the French Window
A bluebird arrives and sits on the flag-holder perch
The male bluebird is joined by a female

I wonder what they are saying to each other?

Of course, the REAL robin is the European Robin, Erithacus rubecula, Britain's National Bird.  This perky little red-breasted European robin is an Old World flycatcher, whereas the American robin belongs to the thrush family. I found a great posting by Charlie on the blogging community '10,000 Birds' about the European robin and the folk laws surrounding it. My family and friends in England know how much I miss the little robin and so they traditionally send me a “robin” card for Christmas.

European Robin on a Christmas card in my collection
 When the American robins had left my garden this morning, there were still lots of other birds for me to enjoy.

Male Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

Female Northern Cardinal

Carolina Wren

Of course, there were the usual chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, titmice, sparrows, and woodpeckers. There was also a pair of mourning doves, but they didn't stay long enough for me to take their picture. Carolyn of This Grandmother's Garden just did a great posting on mourning doves.

I feel blessed to have so many wonderful birds to brighten my cold, winter days. But maybe spring is not so far away ... if the American robin is to be believed!

Pamela x

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I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Pam your post has captured my heart. I love birds in my gardens. I rarely get many with such brilliant colors as you have. You are very blessed, my dear and you have captured those sweet little blessings beautifully in your pictures. So kind of you to link to my mourning doves.

  2. You are so lucky to have so many birds around your house...I could spend hours watching them!

  3. Hi Pam, lovely to see the robins drinking from you pond and birdbath. I do hope that spring is just a breath away and the robins came to tell you.

    I love our robin......I have three in the garden at the moment. They are so territorial, that they bicker constantly.
    I can hear one singing to his sweetheart each day, she replies with such sweetness......

    Enjoy your birds.....they are all beautiful especially the cardinal.

  4. Ah, Cheryl, but your robins are REAL robins!

  5. Dear Pam - the robins seeking the melted circle in the centre of your pond were delightful. What a lot of wild birds you have but would not swap our Robin for anything - follows me round the garden, encouraged by what I turn up as I go about my tasks. As well as mealworm treats for encouragement ;)
    p.s. Hope you are feeling as in the pink as your Cardinals

  6. Pam,
    It must have been very entertaining to watch the Robins frolicking in the pond and also to have so many birdly friends stopping by to eat your tasty snacks and enjoy fresh water.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and wishing me well.

  7. Pam - How wonderful that these birds found your bubbler and heated birdbath. It's like their own little day spa! I'm surprised they are already so far north. I, too, hope this means spring will soon arrive.

  8. Oh Pam you have such a nice variety of birds. Love the pictures you got of them. I sometimes wonder if it's because we are higher up that we don't get a lot of the ones I see down lower. And this time of year I hardly see any. I do hope the Robins are saying nicer weather is on the way. I'm wanting it so bad!

  9. Nice bird photos. I have a hard time getting them at home. They come, but do not pose. I go to the Falls to get the same birds in my back yard. I am so surprised to see the robin. We never see them this early here. I do not know what they would eat.

  10. What a wonderful surprise to see robins visiting in February. Growing up we always had a contest to see who would be first to discover a robin in the neighborhood. To this day, robins are one my favorite birds. The songs they sing enchant me. The photo of the robin and bluebird having a friendly chat, is simply charming.

  11. Yesterday I felt well enough to sit outside for a spell. It was cold and sunny and my cat had followed me to where I'd sat down on a bench. We watched for birds and then a little yellow finch alighted on the feeder nearest the two of us. I need to watch the birds more I think.

  12. I love to read your bird posts as the birds you see in your garden are so colourful compared to the sparrows and starlings which frequent our gardens. I recognise the American robin from the Spoonful of Sugar song in Mary Poppins, apparently they got it wrong in the film, it should have been a British robin. I don't think I'd get any of my housework done if I had bluebirds visiting, I would be too busy watching them all day, they're so pretty.

  13. Pam how incredible...the signs of nature are all around...spring is not far off...

  14. Hey Pam, no doubt, you have taken very wonderful photos. i love this blue bird sitting around with all other birds. Enjoyable post.

  15. Dear Pamela, It is indeed wonderful that you have so many glorious birds visiting your garden. But, no wonder that they do....a heated birdbath....such luxury! I have a soft spot for Robins and your photographs of them are so beautiful. Yes, perhaps Spring is just around the corner!!

  16. Pam, Slightly south of you outside Philadelphia the robins stay here all year round. They flock onto my berry bushes like winterberry holly and denude them in an afternoon. Would love to see a bluebird though. Carolyn

  17. So many Robins. My husband says he sees them durning his 5 mile walks but I haven't seen any in the yard.
    Think my cage feeders aren't inviting for other birds...not much to count for the GBBC.

  18. Pam, such fantastic pictures of all the birds in your garden, you have such a great variety of visitors. Bluebirds and cardinals and more--just a rainbow of feathered friends. And to think you have seen robins already is amazing. Spring cannot be far off. The 'true' robin is a much prettier bird than our American robin, I can see why you miss them, they are beautiful.

  19. Goodness, you have a LOT of robins! I haven't seen very many here this year, although I do occasionally hear them while I'm in the garden. As a transplanted Brit though, I have to agree, the only 'real' robin, for me, is the English robin!

  20. Wonderful photos Pam. I've only ever seen one robin in our garden, and that was at Thanksgiving. I did love your photo of the little robin redbreast. Being from England, I found that found particularly delightful :-)

  21. Delightful photos! You should put them on flickr or some other site where more people will see them.

  22. Oh, Pam, How did I miss this marvel of a post! Wonderful bird portraits!! I finally got a heated watering container for the birds. I love seeing all of your birds enjoying your water. So sweet to see the Bluebird with all those Robins. Your other birds are great too. I have often thought our Bluebird more like the English Robin . . . in form only. Our Robins . . . though beautiful in their way are not so cute as the E. Robin. A joy to visit you today!

  23. I love Robins. More specifically English Robins. Our Robins in Michigan leave for the winter, although we do see more of them staying recent years.