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Published on: Feb. 17, 2011

supplies for robins in several ways. Directly, in the form of trees and shrubs planted for ornamental landscaping and to attract wildlife. These include native species but also the highly invasive and non-native shrub or bush honeysuckle, spread in part by robins and other birds ingesting the fruits and taking the seeds to new locales via their droppings. Indirectly, the suppression of fire across much of Missouri’s landscape has helped native eastern red cedar invade prairies, woodlands and glades. The tree’s blue “berries” (actually female cones) are readily eaten by robins and other birds.

Robins, Conservation and You

Populations of some birds, like the highly adaptable robin, have increased in response to human changes to the landscape. Of course, other species have not fared well at all. Many species dependent on vast, treeless prairies, wetlands, or forests have declined or have been extirpated due to human-caused habitat loss or degradation. Robins are known as a generalist species, as they can survive in many habitats. Species like greater prairie-chickens or cerulean warblers, on the other hand, are specialist species, dependent on specific, high-quality habitats—and in the case of these two species, large tracts of prairie and intact forest, respectively.

But even robins aren’t immune to all changes to the landscape. Because so many robins feed on earthworms and other invertebrates from lawns, they are vulnerable to chemicals like lawn fertilizers and pesticides. And, climate change is likely having an effect on robins as well.

“Their wintering range has changed,” said Dr. Greg Butcher, “and it could be attributable to increasingly warmer average temperatures.” While the historic winter range of robins includes the lower half of the lower 48 states inland and parts of southern Canada along the coast, “We are seeing robins—and in increasing numbers—wintering in parts of Montana, Minnesota and even Alaska,” said Butcher, “where 25 years ago, there were no winter records of robins in these areas.” With northward movement in response to warming temperatures and increasing fruit supplies, a lot has changed for robins in just 25 years.

You can help robins and other birds by landscaping with native shrubs, vines and trees that provide fruits for the birds to eat in fall and winter. Get rid of shrub honeysuckle, whose seeds are spread by birds and which invades natural areas to the detriment of many other animals and plants. Avoid using lawn chemicals, which not only kill

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