American Robin | Prairie Public Broadcasting

American Robin

May 1, 2021

 

I trust you are enjoying the song of the American robin this spring!  It has been a long winter, and hearing their song makes spring official and gives us thoughts of warmer days ahead.  

The American robin, of course is the widely regarded harbinger of spring.  For many of us, it was the first bird we learned as children.  We saw and heard them in our lawns, peered into their nest with those rich baby blue eggs, watched curiously those hungry chicks were fed, and later were entertained by the young following their parents around the yard begging for another meal of earthworms.  The American robin is one of the most widely recognized birds in North America.     

But it was their song that seemed to so endear them to us.  That was not lost on Arthur Cleveland Bent in his Life Histories of North American Birds.  And I quote: “Cheerily, cheery is a favorite rendering of his song, aptly suggesting by sound and meaning the joyous tenor of the phrases…liquid quality, expression of happy contentment…The robin’s song is so characteristic, with its regular beat, its full round tone, and the robust quality of cheerfulness that pervades it, that we recognize it instantly.”

Calling this bird a robin, however, is a bit of a misnomer.  Our robin, the American robin, was named for its resemblance to the noticeably smaller red breasted European robin which is an Old-World flycatcher.  Our American robin, however, is type of thrush.   So, the two are not closely related.  

It should not surprise us that three states, Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin have designated the American robin as their state bird.  But it may surprise you that it was not just “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”  Robin pie was reportedly a popular dish in North America in the late 1800’s.  Even after thy were designated a protected species by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 they were occasional table fare.

-Chuck Lura