July 02, 2006

Ten Birds: American Robin

That's right, the robin, that unremarked bird of city lawns, parks, and golf courses. There is nothing special about robins, of course. You're out birding, you hear the sound of wings. You turn, look, and you say, "It's just a robin." (Photo: National Park Service)

If the male were a human, he would be some guy in a warm-up suit filling the gas tank of his minivan at a convenience store before going inside for an extra-large soda pop and some beef jerky. A Wal-Mart shopper.

The robin was a game bird during the "shoot everything" days of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Southerners baked "robin pie," while the old Audobon Society magazine, Bird-Lore, ran a photo of "a thrush, a warbler, a cowbird, two woodpeckers and seventeen robins with the caption, 'Contents of an [immigrant] Italian hunter's game bag'." (Joseph Kastner, A World of Watchers.)

On June 29 I was resting in a small meadow surrounded by firs, just below timberline in the Sangre de Cristo Range of southern Colorado. There in the trees were robins. They are everywhere, all the time, where the grasses meet the trees--and sometimes in the deep woods too.

They are survivors--cheerful and hardy, gobbling juniper berries near my house and pulling up worms that survive the chemical sprays on the manicured grass of suburban office parks.

We have built a landscape that they like, and no matter how loud the freeway traffic is, they cut loose at sunrise on summer days and sing madly about how much they are enjoying it.

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