The American RobinTurdus migratorius, also known as the robin, is a migratory songbird of the thrush family. It is named after the European robin because of its reddish-orange breast, though the two species are not closely related, with the European robin belonging to the flycatcher family. The American robin is widely distributed throughout North America, wintering from southern Canada to central Mexico and along the Pacific Coast. It is the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin. According to some sources, the American robin ranks behind only the red-winged blackbird (and just ahead of the introduced European starling) as the most abundant, extant land bird in North America. It has seven subspecies, but only T. m. confinis of Baja California Sur is particularly distinctive, with pale gray-brown underparts.
The adult robin is preyed upon by hawks, cats and larger snakes, but when feeding in flocks, it can be vigilant and watch other birds for reactions to predators. Brown-headed cowbirds lay eggs in robin nests (see brood parasite), but robins usually reject the cowbird eggs.
This species was first described in 1766 by Carl Linnaeus in the twelfth edition of his Systema Naturae as Turdus migratorius. The binomial name derives from two Latin words: Turdus, 'thrush,' and migratorius from migrare 'to go.' The term robin for this species has been recorded since at least 1703. There are about 65 species of medium to large thrushes in the genus Turdus, characterized by rounded heads, longish pointed wings, and usually melodious songs. A study of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene indicates that the American robin is not part of the Central/South American clade of Turdus thrushes; instead it shows genetic similarities to the Kurrichane Thrush, T. libonyanus, and the olive thrush, T. olivaceus, both African species. This conflicts with a 2007 DNA study of 60 of 65 Turdus species which places the American robin's closest relative as the rufous-collared robin (T. rufitorques) of Central America. Though having distinct plumage, the two species are similar in vocalization and behavior. Beyond this, it lies in a small group of four species of otherwise Central American distribution, suggesting it recently spread northwards into North America.
The sexes are similar, but the female tends to be duller than the male, with a brown tint to the head, brown upperparts and less bright underparts. However, some birds cannot be safely sexed on plumage alone.
The American robin has an extensive range, estimated at 16,000,000 km2 (6,200,000 sq mi), and a large population of about 320 million individuals. At one point, the bird was killed for its meat, but it is now protected throughout its range in the United States by the Migratory Bird Act.
The American robin is a known reservoir (carrier) for West Nile virus. While crows and jays are often the first noticed deaths in an area with West Nile virus, the American robin is suspected to be a key host, and holds a larger responsibility for the transmission of the virus to humans. This is because while crows and jays die quickly from the virus, the American robin survives the virus longer, hence spreading it to more mosquitoes, which then transmit the virus to humans and other species.
The robin uses auditory, visual, olfactory and possibly vibrotactile cues to ﬁnd prey, but vision is the predominant mode of prey detection. It is frequently seen running across lawns, picking up earthworms and its running and stopping behavior is a distinguishing characteristic. It hunts visually, and it also has the ability to hunt by hearing. Experiments have discovered that it can find worms underground by simply using its listening skills. It typically will take several short hops and then cock its head left, right or forward as a means to detect movement of its prey. In urban areas, robins will gather in numbers soon after lawns are mowed or where sprinklers are in use. They also are attracted to freshly turned earth in gardens, where worms and grubs are abundant targets.
The American robin is known to be a rejecter of cowbird eggs, so brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird is rare. Even when it occurs, the parasite's chick does not normally survive to fledging.
Sequence of dated images showing the progress from eggs to flight in three weeks. The American robin begins to breed shortly after returning to its summer range. It is one of the first North American bird species to lay eggs, and normally has two to three broods per breeding season, which lasts from April to July.
The robin is considered a symbol of spring. A well-known example is a poem by Emily Dickinson, "I Dreaded That First Robin So". Among other 19th-century poems about the first robin of spring is "The First Robin" by Dr. William H. Drummond, which according to the author's wife is based on a Quebec superstition that whoever sees the first robin of spring will have good luck.
American popular songs featuring this bird include "When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)", written by Harry M. Woods and a hit for Al Jolson and others, and "Rockin' Robin", written by Roger Thomas and a hit for Bobby Day and others.
Although the comic-book superhero Robin was inspired by an N. C. Wyeth illustration of Robin Hood, a later version had his mother nicknaming him Robin because he was born on the first day of spring. His red shirt suggests the bird's red breast.