Is there anyone who doesn't know the Robin with its orange breast and cheery song? It is one of our most recognizable and familiar birds. The American Robin isn't a feeder bird but can be found in yards everywhere around town. In most years, Robins aren't very common in East Brunswick in the winter and in the coldest and snowiest years they may not be around at all. In most winters the majority of Robins will move to southern New Jersey or points further south in the fall, but a few hardy ones will usually try to stick it out. But this year with the unusually mild winter, Robins have been everywhere. I can't seem to recall any other winter where they occurred around town in such abundance. In most years, Robins are a true harbinger of spring, with large numbers showing up in East Brunswick, when the ground isn't frozen and the soil is warm enough for worms to be near the surface. When I was growing up in Edison and we would drive down the Garden State Parkway in the spring to visit my grandparents, my dad would always point out the Robins along the grassy shoulders and we would know that winter was over.
Throughout much of the year, Robins feed heavily on worms and can be seen running and stopping on lawns and other grassy areas cocking their heads back and forth as they seem to listen for worms underground. Contrary to popular belief, Robins don't sense the vibrations of worms with their feet but apparently actually look for evidence that they are burrowing right beneath the surface. When worms and other insects aren't available, they switch primarily to fruits and berries, although these are also eaten throughout the year. Since Robins forage for food on our lawns and eat worms that live in the soil beneath them, they can be particularly susceptible to pesticide poisoning. Consider reducing pesticide use around your home and on your lawn and give the Robins a break. I guarantee they will thank you for the effort.
Robins are often the first bird to sing in the morning, a few beginning even before the sun is up. On warm spring and summer nights when it is nice enough to keep the windows open they often wake me up before my alarm goes off at 5:20 a.m.! The song always seems happy and I never tire of it. In 1949 in Life Histories of North American Birds, Winsor Marrett Tyler offered the following description of the Robin's song "The robin is at his best when he is singing. In the long choruses at morning and evening, and frequently for shorter periods during the day, he devotes himself to song, and as he stands motionless on a high perch, his head thrown back a little, whistling his happy phrases, his nerves relax, it seems, and a thrushlike calm comes over him: for the time, he seems at peace. "Cheerily, cheery" is a favorite rendering of his song, aptly suggesting by sound and meaning the joyous tenor of the phrases, and the liquid quality of the notes."
American Robins can be found in all of our parks and neighborhoods and even in our most developed urban areas along Route 18. Learn their easy to recognize song and use the Friends Online Guide to East Brunswick Parks to find some places to look and listen for them. The Guide is available at: http://www.friendsebec.com/ebparks.htm. For more information about the American Robin visit the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology website http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_robin/id/ac. ;