Everyday Gardeners

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“Cheer-Up, Cheerily Cheer Up”

Contrary to what many folks believe to be a sign of spring’s arrival, reports of the robin red-breasts annual return have been greatly exaggerated. Although American Robins are migratory, more than a few populations or groups often stay year-round in one location, even here in Central Iowa. That’s because they switch diets in fall, turning from earthworms to berries and other fruits. And where there is fruit that remains all winter (think mountain ash berries and crabapples), robins will stick around to feast on the rich food source.

full bird image

And while we’re debunking myths about our beloved red-breasts (actually it’s more of a cinnamon-brown), let’s address the issue of how robins locate worms. While the cocked-head posture of a robin seeking food does resemble a “listening” pose, they are actually using their good eyesight to look for worms or their castings in the grass. Unlike owls or hawks, the robin’s eyes are positioned to the side of its head, not in the front. When the robin cocks its head to the side, it is actually looking down. Experiments have ruled out the possibilities that robins feel vibrations that worms make or that robins hear worms moving. Just wanted to get that off my unshaved chest.

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