Rocking Robins

I didn’t see a robin but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible according to the Minnesota DNR.

Only 32 days till Spring . . .
The recent brief spells of warm weather have many people looking forward to spring here in the North Star State. While the season officially arrives on March 20, for many Minnesotans, the real arrival of spring is marked by the season’s first sighting of an American robin. But a February robin in Minnesota is not necessarily a sign of spring at all. Often it’s just a testament to a hearty and rugged bird that, like most of us in this state, possess the fortitude to stand up to Old Man Winter. Bold North indeed!

Like many other birds, some robins will stick around all winter, as long as there’s food and adequate shelter. For the robins that do fly south to places such as Mexico and the Caribbean, it has more to do with easy availability of food than with cold temperatures.

Winter robins here usually hang out in sheltered areas. Unlike in spring and summer, when their mating needs make them more territorial, they gather in large flocks. They move around from one area to another, wherever they can find trees and shrubs still bearing the berries and fruit that make up their winter diet. Sometimes these berries can begin to ferment and produce alcohol that actually causes the birds to get a little tipsy!

For the robins that migrate, the journey back to Minnesota will soon begin. Robins have several triggers that tell them to head north. The increasing daylight triggers hormones that urge the robin to establish a territory, mate and raise young. Waiting on the spring thaw and favorable south winds, the robins develop a restlessness that ornithologists call zugunruhe, a German word that comes from zug (migration) and unruhe (anxiety).

When you first hear a robin singing, that’s a real indicator that spring is just around the corner. Male robins sing to establish territory and lure females for mating. Their songs, coupled with increasing numbers of robins in the area, tell you that warmer weather is coming soon.

March is the robin’s peak migration month, so be on the lookout for the signs of spring. And if, in the meantime, you start to feel a little bit of your own zugunruhe, consider getting outside and visiting one of Minnesota’s state parks to see what else is stirring.

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