How Reliable Is The Robin? Do Red-Breasts Mean Spring Has Sprung?

Photo: John Haslam

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Snow is melting, trees are starting to bloom and more people seem to be spotting robins.

The robin has become the iconic symbol of spring, but local experts say some robins actually stick around all winter.

Local birding groups say the amount of robins they saw this winter is down compared to last.

“This year on our Christmas bird count, we had 15. We usually have four times that many that stay all winter,” said Steve Mueller of the Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary in Cedar Springs.

Mueller, who prefers to go by Ranger Steve, has been a ranger for more than 50 years in various states. He says robins migrate from the Arctic Circle to down near Mexico. But not all of them make the entire journey; some stay here in Michigan during the winter.

“The ones that are hanging out and are not going as far south are the ones that want to get back to the best breeding ground early. But that’s a risky business because if the winter is harsh, they might not survive it,” Ranger Steve said.

Winter robins survive on berries from trees. In the spring, they begin to flock to areas where the snow has melted and worms and insects are available.

Ranger Steve said that since many of the robins have migrated, we will see an uptick in their numbers in the next few months.

“April’s going to be the big month,” he said. “March, some things are going to start showing up, but then April, we’re just going to have this big influx.”

A single robin may not mean the start of spring because you can see a few of them all winter long, and by the time the red-chested birds can be spotted in larger numbers, spring will have already sprung.

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