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By Nic.Korte

One of my heroes was Alexander F. Skutch. He was a pioneer tropical ornithologist who traveled through much of South and Central America in the 1930s and 40s. He eventually settled in Costa Rica. He lived on a small farm and nature preserve until his death in 2004--a few days before his 100th birthday. One of many things that impressed me about his writings is that although he was surrounded by some of the most interesting exotic species in the world, he never tired of studying and appreciating the commonplace.

Skutch also made a great study of and wrote several books on belief systems from all over the world. “What was their essence”? he wondered. “What did they have in common”? From these studies and his experience, he reported that appreciation and co-operation were the most important attributes in one’s approach to life.

I am reminded of Skutch’s appreciation of the commonplace when I think of our familiar Robins. I have lots of favorite birds, but this time of year my choice is the American Robin as it is officially known. I love hearing them sing as they stake out their territories in our yards and announce the arrival of spring.

Sadly, I have heard folks be dismissive of Robins simply because of their abundance. Don’t take them for granted! What are the other most abundant birds around town? Eurasian Starlings. House Sparrows. Eurasian Collared Doves. Mourning Doves. Except for the latter, the others are non-natives, and the former two, in particular, are known as much for their ability to persecute and out-compete our native species as for any endearing habits they might have. One native bird they haven’t beaten up on is the Robin.

Although the American Robin is a native, its name is a misnomer. Homesick European settlers thought it resembled the Eurasian Robin which is from an altogether different family. I would name our Robin a Rufous-breasted Thrush. Six other thrushes are widespread in the United States, but unless you are a birder, you may not have heard of the others. Although several have beautiful songs, they are drably-colored and tend to be skulkers. They avoid humans and hide in thick vegetation. Our Robin, however, is an outlier—a disrupter in the thrush family. Robins will hunt worms and insects in your yard even while you mow it—or play fetch with the dog. Indeed, I often tend to think of Robins as pets—especially when they hop on the deck and drink from the dog’s dish.

I noted some years ago that Robins are year-around residents in our part of the US ( But, they aren’t year-around singers and nesters. That’s what happens now. Now is the time to celebrate spring and the return of Robins to our yards.

This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to [To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see our website at and “like” us on Facebook!]


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Wow!! First time I can see an American robin through this article. Look at this picture. How small and beautiful it was? I would like to see more pictures of this bird. Can you please update it as early as possible?  helpful hints

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