I was somewhat stunned this morning as Angelina and I rounded the corner of our complex. There on the green strip between the river and the building were four robins just sitting there attentively, tuned in for their next meal.
It surprised me for a couple of reasons. I hadn’t seen such a gathering in quite some time. In fact, I can say I have only consciously seen a few robins all spring — and here we are in the later stages of June. Normally my first robin sighting — a harbinger of spring — comes sometime in April.
Having said that, I do remember seeing the red (or orange) breasted beauty back in December and again in late February. Both times they stood out because of the stark contrast to the white on the ground. For the December sighting I figured it was a straggler who ignored the message to migrate. I had no idea why I would have seen a robin in February, although it was one of those weird days when the sun was actually shining and the temperature hovered near the freezing mark (32 degrees).
But from that February sighting to just a few weeks ago, there was nary a robin on my radar. This past week, though, they have been everywhere.
As I pondered this phenomenon, I discovered robins are not strangers to Maine — even in the winter. As migratory birds, they often fly down from Canada for the winter. That’s kind of funny — snowbirds in Maine.
According to birdwatchers I know, most of our migrating friends prefer southern Maine, but some call the Maine Highlands home for the winter because of the ripe fruits and berries in trees and shrubs. I was also advised they tend to roost in flocks in barns and under bridges and in trees until breaking up into nesting pairs during the spring breeding season.
The other thing I learned is the male sings its song – a series of rich caroling notes, rising and falling in pitch: cheer-up, cheerily, cheer-up, cheerily – early and late in the day during breeding season. After the breeding season, it does not sing again until the following spring, except for a brief time in the fall when the shortness of daylight simulates spring conditions. Throughout the year, the male calls teeek teeek or tuk tuk tuk in situations of possible danger, often adding a tail-flick display.
Female robins do not sing, but give the alarm notes during the breeding season.
Of course, that got my crazy mind thinking, why don’t the female robins sing. My wry friend explained, “Because they’re busy building and maintaining the nest.” In fact, the female selects the nest site and does the majority of nest building. She incubates three to four glossy, light blue eggs for 12 to 14 days. The young leave the nest after 14 to 16 days, but the parents continue to care for them for up to four weeks. And robins have two and sometimes three clutches of eggs each year.
Hmmm. Guess that explains it.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. — Wayne Dyer
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