Of Robins and Robins

In Britain the Robin is often depicted on the front of Christmas cards, and is viewed as a quintessential winter bird. Think of the old rhyme:

When the North wind doth blow, and we shall have snow
What will the robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn, to keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

The European robin (Erithacus rubecula) is not a large bird, but is fiercely territorial. It also has a characteristic beautiful liquid song.

Here’s a Flickr photo from clicks_1000:

In North America, the bird known as the robin (Turdus migratorius) is a signpost for the coming spring. Here in Vancouver, today is another `soaring eagle’ day and as I walked out to get a coffee, I noticed a dozen or more North American robins foraging on the grass and in the bushes outside my office, and encountered at least as many again in my 100 yard walk, all the while my ears were filled with their chattering calls. In that instant I had forgotten what I was thinking of and just enjoyed seeing and hearing those birds.

Ken Schwarz has this photo on Flickr:

The first time I remember seeing the North American robin was when I visited Socorro, NM and I was puzzled by some birds the size of European blackbirds (Turdus merula), which walked, ran, flew and looked for food just like European blackbirds, and even had the yellow beak of European blackbirds, and almost sounded like European blackbirds, yet had the colouring of a robin. A quick check of a suitable book told me it was a North American robin, apparently mis-named by ignorant pilgrims (at least, that’s how Bill Bryson described them) in the 17th century.

Well, I must have been away from the UK for quite a while, because today it started to feel like spring was on its way. But maybe that was just the sunshine…

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