Photo by Ken Martin
Each spring and summer I watch Surabi, my cat, sit at the edge of the kitchen table and watch the birds in the yard. As she watches the birds she will give a small meow, wiggle her backside and twitch her tail back and forth. Occasionally she will allow me to sit next to her and pet her as she enjoys her favorite pastime, watching and drooling over the birds (that she can’t have).Each time I sit with her watching those birds I notice something. I see cardinals, blue jays and many other types of birds, but one type of bird is more abundant than the others; the American Robin. In fact, the American robin (Turdus migratorius) is one of the most common North American birds. It is also our state bird.
I had only known the robin to be our state bird and a rather common one until I looked up the American robin in The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds by John K. Terres. Did you know that the robin was once a forest bird? I didn’t. Robins can still be found in forests but many have adapted to our suburban landscapes.
Our robin redbreast is in the thrush (Turdidae) family. There are 306 species of birds in the thrush family, including for example, the hermit thrush and bluebird. The birds in the thrush family include some of our best known song birds. The American robin is 9-11 inches long and has a wingspan of 14 ¾-16 ½ inches, making it the largest North American thrush. Although large the robin only weighs between 64.8-84.2 grams.
Robins eat earthworms, insects, fruit and bread, build their nests anywhere between the ground and the tops of trees and have been clocked flying up to 25 mph. Here are some fun facts: in Redmond, Oregon an American robin in captivity is alive and flying at 17 years old. In Amsterdam, New York an albino robin was rescued from the claws of a cat and lived for 5 years in captivity.