The robins are here! For such a pretty and lovable bird, they have a very unflattering scientific name: Turdus migratorius. The migratorius part isn't so bad, and robins are indeed migratory birds. But why the name Turdus? Scientific names are in Latin, and 'turdus' means 'thrush' in Latin, which is a bad deal for the robin. A thrush is a type of bird that is usually small and plump and searches for food on the ground. Bluebirds and wood thrushes are other common Middle Tennessee thrushes.
|A male robin.|
|A female robin.|
|A female robin between the two Japanese quinces.|
|A female foraging for ground insects or worms and a male sitting on the fence.|
Both parents feed the hatchlings after they escape their eggshells. For the first few days, the menu is regurgitated food the parents already ate. And if that isn't gross enough, after that the parents bring soft-bodied insects and worms to feed the poor little birds. The hatchlings beg and peep like mad for their food, so they must like it. Begging is an important skill for robin hatchlings, because the most aggressive peeper with the longest neck and widest-open beak will get the most food and is most likely to survive to adulthood.
At two weeks old, the robins usually fledge (leave the nest). They still don't fly well or know how to find food, so the parents hop around them on the ground alerting them to danger and bringing them insects and berries. At first, the mom feeds the fledglings, but then when they are starting to become independent, the dad will feed them, and the mom will go and build a new nest for the next brood. The fledgeling stage is very dangerous for the birds because the young ones can't fly yet. They might become the food that a mother hawk brings home to her hatchlings, or they might fall prey to a cat.
There are many types of birds at our outdoor classroom right now. Next time you go, try to count the different types of birds you see. Last time I was there, I saw 3 kinds. Pay special attention to the robins, and see if you can figure out what they are doing when you see them (feeding? gathering nest materials? searching for a good nest site? fighting off other birds? or are they watching you?).