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Backyard Birding

Welcome Spring American Robin


March 28, 2018

Doug Harling

Nothing says Springtime like seeing the American Robin in your neighborhoods and yards. In this week's Birds of El Paso County column, Fountain Valley's Bird Whisperer Doug Harling features the Robin and shares photos taken at a feeding station in his own backyard habitat.

"The early bird catches the worm" is a well known English proverb used as motivation for success. This proverb was first recorded in a collection of John Ray's English proverbs in 1670-1678 meaning, success comes to those who prepare well and put in effort. The phrase is a very popular idiom today. I believe John Ray must have been sitting on his patio with a cup of coffee listening the American Robin when he wrote this one. If you are up before sunrise as spring comes on, you won't be alone. You can bet that the American Robin will be the "early bird."

The American Robin is a migrating songbird whose song fills the early morning skies. If you haven't had them sing to you yet this year, just open your door just before sunrise and listen. Even if you don't feed birds, chances are you'll hear Robins singing. Robins are plentiful this year and their song is distinctive. If you hear any birds singing before sunrise this time of year, you can almost bet it's a Robin. I have found that Robins are one of the first migrating songbirds to return to El Paso County.

This is time to start putting out some fruit and jellies. With the temperatures still dropping to freezing some nights, I only put out small amounts at first to prevent waste. Robins do love worms and bugs but the ground can still be hard to penetrate from the cold winter freeze; so put out some extra food for the Robins. They will soon be busy building nests and will need all the energy they can get for the mating season. This can be a dangerous time for migrating songbirds. Most will start building nests and start to breed at the first sign of spring. The danger is that we often get a couple of last blasts of winter. With no leaves on the trees yet for shelter and a lack of food, spring snow storms and freezes can be deadly. This is why I try to encourage people to get some good energy food out for them and if at all possible put a few nesting boxes in your yard.

Oranges cut in half, little jelly bowls, sunflower seed, grapes, dried meal worms and peanut butter suets are all good energy sources for Robins and they love them. You can see in some of my images how much they love grape jelly and oranges. You can see one image of a mama feeding grape jelly to its baby.

Start to water your lawn a little on days you get above 60 degrees. This will actually get worms and bugs that spend the winter deep in the soil to start coming to the surface. Don't forget the drinking water!! I hope everyone kept water heaters out during the winter but if you didn't, now is especially crucial with the dry winter we had. Water is probably the hardest element for them to find right now.

Doug Harling

Two Robins at my backyard feeding station enjoying some grape jelly and an orange.

Shelter is just as important. March is the time of year most people will start getting their yards ready for spring and summer. When you cut down or trim shrubs and bushes, try to find an area you can stack all the trimmings. Most people want to throw them out right away but many birds use these materials to build their nest. Try to wait until June to discard of shrub and tree trimmings. Larger birds will use the material to build nests and smaller birds will use the piles for shelter. Small birds that will have the protection of dense shrubs and bushes in the summer have nothing during the winter when everything is bare, leaving them more exposed to predators and harsh weather. With warmer mornings on the way, get a cup of coffee and go out and listen to the beautiful morning song of the American Robin.

Happy birding!


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