Forget the Lawn and Welcome the Robins

Author: Meera, August 11, 2013


Robins are the quintessential backyard bird

Robins are the quintessential backyard bird


One of my favorite ways to relax is birdwatching. And nothing entertains me more than seeing an orange-breasted robin hopping around on the lawn and then halting at a full stop with its head cocked as if listening for an earthworm, as if the worms telegraphed their presence. I mean seriously. But somehow, those robins will find the worms and pull them right out of the ground.


When winter is nearing its close and spring is beginning, the robins are one of the first harbingers of the seasonal transition. In the spring, when other backyard birds are nesting and producing young, the robins are, too. But even though it is possible for them to produce three broods each year, less than half (40 percent) of their nests will hold baby robins.


Of the young robins that hatch, only about a quarter of them will make it to November each year. And as if that weren’t bad enough, of the robins that make it through a full year, only half will survive through a second year. And yet, robins can live to the ripe old age of 14 if it were not for predators and pesticides.



Robin nest tucked into a Cecile Breunner climbing rose

Robin nest tucked into a Cecile Brunner polyantha climbing rose



With the odds against these sweet birds’ survival, you’d think most people would not spray the daylights out of their lawns with pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals are toxic to the robins as well as other birds and, of course, the beleaguered honeybee.


Robins find lawns to be wonderful sites for foraging and I often see them searching and snatching the earthworms in the early morning. Later in the day, these cheerful birds seem to prefer fruit and honeysuckle berries. If you don’t see them, you might hear their cheery song crisp and clear, even over urban noise.


During certain times of the year,  you might see the robins in greater numbers than at other times, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone far. They are either resident birds, meaning they stay close to their breeding area or are short-distance migrants. The local conditions (environmental, weather, water and food availability, predator populations, and other factors) dictate the size of the robin population in at any given time in a particular area.


If you love birds as I do, less fussing over your lawn (except to encourage the worms) might mean having having more robins around. Consider ways to establish a healthy ecological balance in your yard and garden to avoid spraying with chemicals that can poison these cheerful fun-to-watch birds.






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