Happy the community where Robins wake a lover of rural sounds with their early morning chorus. This chant is heard only where the soil remains moist enough to breed angle-worms for a Robin to tug at and carry squirming to his brood. Washington and Oregon have Robins in the dooryards, in the blossoming (and ripening!) cherry trees, but in southern California school-children know the Robin chiefly from literature or from a summer camping trip in the mountains. In the fall Robins appear in California lowlands, particularly in olive orchards and pepper trees; here toward spring they practice somewhat halfheartedly their cheerful song. The song is a series of rising and falling phrases, four often constituting a series, which is then repeated or varied. In summer Robins sing most vigorously before it is light, and after continuing for about an hour, disperse to feed. Then there is desultory singing from individuals through the morning, and at dusk another general but not quite so vigorous chorus. The Robin’s common call note, given when perched, is a single low pip, pip often followed by a low tut, tut, which becomes a shrill pip, pip, pip when the bird gives vent to excitement. Another common call note often given in flight is a shrill tsee, tsee. The Robin’s strangest note is a high thin hiss, often given from the ground, and inaudible except within a few feet of the bird. When a Robin flies over an observer, the white feathers under the tail offer a striking contrast to the darker breast. Just after alighting, a Robin pumps its tail vigorously once or twice.
Hoffmann, Ralph. (1927). Birds of the Pacific States. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge.
Since 1931, and the American Ornithologists’ Union 4th edition, the robin has been scientifically known as Turdus migratorius. Since sometime in the 1970’s (so far as my research has revealed) its English name (aka common name) has been American Robin. English names are recognized world wide, although complete consensus has not yet been reached. Further information can be found at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/ and http://www.aou.org/committees/nacc/.
I have been wanting to share some passages from Ralph Hoffman’s magnificent book and was inspired to begin when I remembered noting that some birds were singing yesterday despite that fact that it is still February. One, of course, was the Robin.
Just for fun, some other names for the Robin:
Catalan: Griva americana
Czech: Drozd stehovavý, drozd stěhovavý
Welsh: Robin America
Spanish: Robín Americano
Spanish (Cuba & Dominican Republic): Zorzal Migratorio
Spanish (Mexico): mirlo primavera
Basque: Griva americana
French: Merle d’Amérique
Irish: Smólach Imirce
Galician: Griva americana
Haitian Creole French: Kwèt-kwèt etranje
Hebrew: קיכלי נודד
Italian: Merlo americano
Previous Latin: Merula migratoria
Lithuanian: Strazdas klajoklis
Polish: drozd wedrowny, drozd wędrowny
Russian: Странствующий дрозд
Slovak: drozd stahovavý, Drozd st’ahovavý
Slovenian: taščični drozg
Turkish: Göçmen Ardıç