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Backyard bird of the month for December: American Robin

The American Robin, or kwikweskas in Abenaki, is one of the most widespread and beloved backyard birds in North America. They are often easiest to locate by their sputtering calls, from which their onomatopoeic Abenaki name is derived. While these large, charismatic songbirds are heralded as a sign of spring when they flock to lawns in search of worms in the freshly-thawed soil, they are also undeniably a sign of fall, when their massive flocks seem to pinball back and forth across the sky. These roving flocks move between abundant food sources and roosting sites throughout the nonbreeding season, and rely on hardy fruiting trees and shrubs, like Winterberry and crabapples. Despite robins being so widespread and well-known, the full dynamics of their seasonal movements are not well understood. It is likely that many robins that breed farther north migrate through Maine to the Southeast, while some birds that breed here move seasonally but do not migrate long distances. According to National Audubon’s Bird Migration Explorer, American Robins encountered in Maine have been re-encountered in Quebec, around Chesapeake Bay, and in coastal Carolina. While we don’t entirely understand their movements, we do know that this behavior is innate: juveniles that were hand-reared in captivity began to exhibit restlessness at dusk around 14 days old!

Photo: Doug Hitchcox

Backyard Bird of the Month is a feature by Maine Audubon created for the Maine Home Garden News, the newsletter of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Garden and Yard