American Robin
American Robin

This specie is often confiding nature, distinctive plumage, pleasing song, and acceptance of human-dominated habitats make it one of the most beloved of North American birds. Polytypic. Length 10" (25 cm).


The American robin is active mostly during the day, and on its winter grounds it assembles in large flocks at night to roost in trees in secluded swamps or dense vegetation. The flocks break up during the day when the birds feed on fruits and berries in smaller groups. During the summer, the American robin defends a breeding territory and is less social.


A distinctive, potbellied bird. Forages on lawns and other areas of short vegetation for earthworms and other invertebrates in a run-and-stop pattern typical of terrestrial thrushes. Adult: depending on sex and subspecies, head, with white eye arcs, varies from jet black to gray, with white supercilia and throat, blackish lores and lateral throat stripe. Underparts vary, often in tandem with head color, from deep, rich reddish maroon to gray-scalloped, peachy orange. Males tend to be darker, females grayer, but overlap makes determining sex of many problematic. Throat streaked black and white; belly and undertail coverts white. Upperparts medium gray; tail blackish, with white corners. Bill color yellow with variable, season-dependent, black tip. Legs dark. Juvenile: spotted dark on underparts; whitish on upperparts and wing coverts. Older immatures not distinguishable from adults; small percentage retain a few juvenal wing coverts or other feathers. Flight: quick, flicking wingbeats followed by short, closed-wing glides. Wing linings color of underparts; remiges blackish.

Geographic Variation

Seven subspecies, 5 in North America. Widespread taiga and northeastern migratorius described; north Pacific coastal caurinus and widespread western propinquus (larger, paler) with white tail corners small or lacking; Canadian maritime nigrideus dark brownish to blackish above, underparts deep rufous, medium-size tail corners; southeast United States achrusterus smaller, upperparts browner, smaller tail corners.

Similar Species

Duller females possibly mistaken for the eyebrowed thrush. Juveniles possibly confused with spotted thrushes.


Call: variable; low, mellow single pup; doubled or trebled chok or tut; shriller and sharper kli ki ki ki ki; high and descending, harsh sheerr. Flight note: very high, trilled, descending sreeel. Song: clear, whistled phrases of 2 or 3 syllables cheerily cheery cheerily cheery, with pauses; lacks the burry quality of many tanagers; pheucticus grosbeaks typically have different tempo.

Status and Distribution

Common and widespread. Breeding: wide variety of wooded or shrubby habitats with open areas. Migration: short to medium-distance migrant. Departs northerly winter-only areas by 10 April; arrival northern Great Lakes 20 March; central Alaska 1 May. Strong facultative aspect (particularly in East) in fall, so variable timing; departs southern Canada 20 October. Winter: mainly lower 48 and Mexico; also southernmost Ontario and British Columbia, Bahamas (rare), northern Guatemala. Vagrant: widely in Europe; casual to Jamaica and Hispaniola.

[source: National Geographic]