Mature American robins have grayish-brown upperparts with a blackish head and a split white eye ring. The underparts are rich rusty red with white under the tail feathers. The female is paler than the male. The blackish throat is streaked with white. Juveniles are much like the adults, only heavily spotted with brown. The melodious song consists of a variety of three-note phrases strung together, sometimes seemingly endlessly. Calls include a “Pick! Tut-tut-tut.”
Length: 10 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Habitat and Conservation
Robins live in yards and other grassy places where they forage on the ground for earthworms; they are easily observed as they sing and call from trees, power lines and rooftops. Formerly killed for its meat, this species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the 1900 Lacey Act. It is also the species most memorable from Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” which illustrated how insect-eating birds can be killed indirectly from poisons intended for plant-eating insects.
American robins forage on the ground for earthworms, grubs and other insects, fruits and berries. They commonly run and stop, cock their head and pull earthworms from the ground.
Common summer resident.
Robins breed across North America, migrating northward from areas south of Canada in spring and migrating back south as far as southern Mexico in fall. Robins are found in Missouri year-round. They breed as soon as they arrive in spring, building nests of mud, grasses and twigs; there are usually 3-5 blue eggs per clutch, and usually 2-3 broods per season. The naked, helpless chicks hatch in 14 days; they fledge 14 days later but still require their parents’ help.
As a cherished symbol of springtime, the robin’s value to the human spirit is reflected in poetry and song. Because they often build nests that are easily seen, robins are loved by bird watchers and children. Robins also busily devour grubs whose feeding can disfigure manicured lawns.
Robins eat many insects, helping to keep their populations in check. Young robins and eggs are eaten by many predator species, and adults are taken by others. The warning calls robins make when predators approach serve to alert other birds, who undoubtedly benefit from the robins’ vigilance.
Where to See Species
About 350 species of birds are likely to be seen in Missouri, though nearly 400 have been recorded within our borders. Most people know a bird when they see one — it has feathers, wings, and a bill. Birds are warm-blooded, and most species can fly. Many migrate hundreds or thousands of miles. Birds lay hard-shelled eggs (often in a nest), and the parents care for the young. Many communicate with songs and calls.