The American Robin, Turdus migratorius, flies over the entirety of North America. Coupled with its bright orange-red breast, this makes the Robin a great start for the novice birder or a familiar face for the those who have watched birds for a lifetime. As such, they provide a great starting point for a nature journal right along with the Black-Billed Magpie.
While in quarantine from the COVID-19, I have spotted many Robins on my daily walks around the the block. Here in Vail, Colorado, the American Robin’s fly around trying to find the end of winter and beginning of spring food. They often rely on those shriveled old berries that somehow still clung to bare branches through a winter of snows. Coming out between the spring snows, the American Robin flits about between branches finding a bit of food here and a bit of food there.
Easy to spot by their orange breast, the Robin has some cool moves to get berries. I watched one individual for quite some time on a neighborhood shrub perform balancing acts to eat the old fruits. The American Robin would land on a branch and while still holding on with its feet, use its wings to balance and eat a berry on a nearby branch. Sometimes, this meant hanging almost upside down! Find food sources such as old berries comes in handy when snow still covers most of the ground.
American Robin General Characteristics:
- Gray head, back, and wings
- Orange breast and orange underwing on the half closest to the breast
- Head can be a darker shade of gray
- Eyes have an almost full, but not total ring of white
- Younger robins may not have developed the orange breast yet, making them harder to identify
The American Robin enjoys urban areas, suburban areas, lawns, forests, and meadows in the the summer. In the winter, the robin prefers forested areas. The ability to live in urban and suburban areas makes the American Robin a well known species.
One can spot the American Robin from Canada to Mexico. Some Robins that live in the northern reaches of Canada do migrate south to the United States during the colder months.
The American Robin is in the Turdidae Family. It is related to the Mountain Bluebird and the Western Bluebird.
The American Robin & The Journal
I created this two-page spread on the American Robin in the very beginning of Spring — late March. As such, I am using this as a platform to begin watching this incredible species. I have only included the basic information and a few field notes along with a sketch and a photo.
After a long hiatus from sketching, my flying American Robin sketch here remains basic, but to the point. I used arrows to explain a few key features such as the overlapping feathers during flight, the almost full ring around the eye, and the orange breast. To fully depict the colors, I opted for a photo to add more depth and understanding as well as for future identification.
The photo I chose for the Robin includes the robin eating one of those old shriveled berries. I wanted to demonstrate what food the robin actually sought out in these months of spring where the weather shifts dramatically from warm, 60 degree F days filled with sunshine to surprise snow storms draping the land in quite, cold snow at only 20 degrees F. The robin, like us, must navigate the crazy temperature swings while still finding food, albeit the older food.
Thinking about the future, I will seek to find the American Robin in the summer, fall, and maybe even in the winter to see the differences in their lives. Maybe my sketching will improve by then, too!