Dear Crabby, Do Robins Go South for Michigan Winters?

Dear Crabby,

I’ve seen Robins all Winter, I thought robins went South for the Winter in Michigan, what’s Going on?

Sincerely, Birdy Girl

Hello Birdy!

I thought so, but I’ve seen those silly American Robins hanging around this winter too. If I had wings, I’d certainly fly south every winter and enjoy the sun. It’s one of those end of winter traditions here in Michigan – spotting the first robin – that let’s you know spring in on its way.

I remember back when I was a kid, my father would always announce “I spotted the first robin this morning leaving for work.” He went to work so early I wondered what bird would be up before sunrise, but we took his word for it. Year-after-year, spring-after-spring, dad always spotted the first robin.

Dear Crabby with a Laptop ComputerThen one spring day, I might have been 10 or 11 years old, I saw a robin in the front yard. I looked really hard and pointed it out to mom – she didn’t seem too interested – that I, was the one to see the first robin of the year. Excited to tell dad, after he got home I told him all about the robin I saw that day, thinking he’d be proud or happy or something. All he said was “no you didn’t, they’re not back yet.” Forcing the issue didn’t help, he practically yelled at me, and to my surprise mom didn’t say a word. The next day when he came home from work he announced, “I spotted the first robin this morning leaving for work.” And then mom congratulated him. I was dumbfounded.

Come to find out from my siblings, that was just how he was. For some unknown reason, dad just had to be the one to spot the first robin each year. We could never figure that one out. Anyway, he’s been passed away for a while now, otherwise this winter would have interesting.

Bird experts say the American Robin likes to hover around temperatures of 36 degrees in the winter. However, it’s really about how plentiful the food sources are. Robins feed on insects and fruit throughout the winter and if the temps don’t drop too low – like this year – you’ll find them here in Michigan in the winter months. Those same experts suggest only a small percentage will attempt a winter stay in Michigan, that most will still fly south (those are the smart ones).

You’ll know when the majority of them start returning, by their spring signing. Spring is their breeding time and robins really like to sing during that time. I always thought they were happy to be back in Michigan, I guess spring fever and finding love gives them the gift of song. Of course, they return to where they were born to breed, so it might be a little bit of both. So don’t just spot them, listen for them, and then you’ll know they’re back!

Sincerely, Dear Crabby

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