SciSun: Rockin Robin   Leave a comment

“Cheep, cheep, cheepidy cheep”

“Cheep, cheep, cheepidy cheep”

Here we have your average American Robin (Turdus migratorius).  (Yes, that’s his real name. Don’t laugh, maybe the guy at the naming office was having a bad day). Appearing, it seems almost overnight, as soon as the weather starts to warm, robins are some of most familiar and welcome feathered-friends throughout North America. One robin can eat up to 14 feet of worms a day! That’s a lot of regular-sized worms, or one really large and scary mutant-worm.


But where do these birdy-buddies go in the winter? Maybe take a tropical vacation? Stay inside near a welcoming fire? Help Santa make and deliver presents? (They’re usually very good at pulling on ribbons and bows). While none of these sound like something a wild animal would do, in fact every year flocks of robins spend part of their year in the Southern U.S., Mexico and as far south as Central America. While they travel seeking food, and it’s not exactly a vacation, it is tropical and something we wouldn’t expect from the same grey and rust birds we see in our neighborhood lawns and parks through the Spring and Summer – and in some areas, well into Autumn.


And it’s because the Robin migrates – travels from one location to another along with changes in weather or temperature or food – that makes it vulnerable to human activity in the environment: Everything from new construction in what was once a meadow at the edge of a forest, to the application of pesticides and other chemicals that might make our lives easier, but can be deadly to robins, as well as other birds and wildlife. How would you like to go away for a few months, only to return to find your home gone, or poison has made the water and food toxic?


In fact, because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, all birds that migrate – as well as many native birds that don’t migrate, and might actually seem ‘common’ – are protected from trapping, forcibly transporting, removing, harming, or otherwise disturbing birds, eggs, and nests in their normal environments, for virtually all purposes, without a permit issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USWFS). This means that anyone who harms a bird – even if that bird might be nesting in an inconvenient place, or decides to take a bath in your swimming pool – could be subject to a maximum $5000 fine and a six-month jail term. And if a loose house cat catches or kills a protected bird, that cat’s in big trouble with the USFWS – and it might mean trouble for the cat’s owner, too.


Aside from helping maintain healthy populations of birds (so they can continue to eat the billions and billions of insects they devour every year; and the pollination and seed-spreading duties they undertake; and the food they sometimes become for other wildlife), protection provided by the Migratory Act is also a way to keep species safe from extinction caused by human vanity: About a hundred years ago – the ‘Victorian Age’ – most any type of bird with colorful or decorative feathers were hunted for ornaments on woman’s’ hats and dresses; or because they were seen as ‘unwanted’ birds that kept other more desired birds away; or because there were so many of the birds, it wouldn’t hurt to shoot hundreds or thousands or millions. Until some, like the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) and Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) were hunted to the brink of extinction; while others – the Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) and Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) one day were gone, before anyone realized how quickly entire populations can be extinguished.

“Yes, we know it's right above your front door.  Maybe just carry an umbrella for a few weeks.”

“Yes, we know it’s right above your front door. Maybe just carry an umbrella for a few weeks.”


Which brings us back to our summer-time friend, the Robin, which greets every day with a song and has never found a worm he didn’t like (although for worms, the feeling isn’t mutual). Without decisions like the Migratory Bird Act, as well as the efforts of educational organizations, bird-watching groups, and actions you and I can take every day to protect, preserve and enjoy birds and other wildlife, our environment wouldn’t be as rich, and our summers wouldn’t be as rockin’.


Michonne Says: I’ve never understood how the robin-birds eat those things they eat. Maybe once or twice, while I was enjoying a particularly tasty group of meadow flowers, I might have maybe eaten a beetle-bug or night-nat, but it was all a mistake and I’ll never tell anyone if I did or didn’t.

Posted June 22, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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