- Gerry Clark When the red, red robin comes a bob, bob, bobbin’ along, spring is here. I know the odd delusional robin can be seen around town over the winter, and every once in a while a misinformed Canada goose shows up before there is any open water, but for me the arrival of the first robins is always something upon which I remark; always the surest sign of spring. The sight of robins on my lawn and the sound of their song are how I think of spring. The robin’s cheery song is usually what I wake to every morning, and to which I often fall asleep. Robins are one of the most numerous land birds in North America. The robin is rated as a species of least concern for extinction, even though it seems to be on the bottom of the food chain for flying predators like hawks and owls. Even man in the early days considered the robin a delicacy! Robins are now protected by legislation. While robins prefer to spend their days scavenging for worms and grasshoppers and berries, they apparently assemble in large flocks to roost in thick bush for safety at night. They also like to party - a good fermented berry bush will quickly draw a crowd of robins and they will get so drunk they can’t walk. The average life span of a robin is only two years but the record is fourteen years. The robin is also one of the major carriers of West Nile virus. Unlike most species, it is impossible to distinguish the sex of robins by their feathers, although males tend to be a bit more vividly coloured, and are slightly bigger on average. Robins count mostly on their eyesight for hunting worms but
Photo by daniel dillon
The Robin studies have shown they can hear worms moving underground. That is apparently why they will quickly bound across your lawn, stop and cock their heads first one way then the other. They are looking and listening for their lunch. They are also smart enough to hone in on a freshly watered lawn or cultivated garden to improve their odds. Robins don’t nest in birdhouses but they aren’t shy about nesting near humans. They are fastidious housekeepers with both parents picking up and disposing of the waste left by their little families. Both parents also feed and protect the chicks. If you have ever tried to rob a robin’s nest, you will know they are totally fearless in trying to scare you off.
The robin in popular culture
The robin was honoured on Canada’s two-dollar bill as part of the Birds of Canada series, released in 1986. The two-dollar bill, and the two robins that graced it, were replaced by the toonie in 1996. Batman’s sidekick Robin (originally “Robin the Boy Wonder”) wears a red vest to suggest the robin’s red breast. “When the Red, Red Robin” was written in the 1920s by Harry M. Woods, a prolific American songwriter. He also wrote “I’m Standing Over a Four Leaf Clover” and “Side by Side”. The other famous robin tune, “Rockin’ Robin” was written by Leon René (under the pen name Jimmie Thomas) and was first recorded by Bobby Day in 1958. It was his only hit single. Michael Jackson’s cover of the song was released in 1972 and quickly topped the charts.
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