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The distinct song of the robin announces the start of spring, beginning as early as March, and also announces the start of autumn later that same year. During the winter, robins remain calm and quiet in their hiding places, but even then, you can still hear these songbirds singing at the sight of each early ray of sunshine. Its song is similar to the sound of a flute occasionally interrupted by a pronounced chirp, and lasts throughout the day from morning to dusk.
Robins typically live for about 2 to 3 years in the wild, although some may survive longer. This article will highlight all you need to know about the lifespan of the robin, for both avid bird lovers and curious minds alike. Read on to learn more about the different life stages of this quintessential early bird.
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Robins usually have a short lifespan due to their high infant mortality rate and low position in the food chain. On average, they can live up to two years. Interestingly, once they pass the age of two, their chance of survival actually increases. This is based on the fact that the oldest recorded robin in the natural habitat was 19 years old.
As mentioned, a robin’s lifespan can vary immensely. Most animals held in captivity live longer than their counterparts in the wild. When dealing with robins, this doesn’t apply. Despite their adorable appearance, robins in the wild are known to be extremely tough and durable from acquiring all the necessary life skills they need to survive.
Robins feed primarily on insects and tiny snails, as well as fruits. During winter, it will stay in areas with a better supply of food. Robins are considered to be cleaners of forests and parks, as their consumption of various insects (as well as their larvae) helps to keep the pest population at bay.
The robin can be found all throughout Europe, and in parts of Africa and Asia as well. Robins are rather adaptable, and prefer different habitats of overgrown trees and shrubs—ranging from both deciduous and coniferous forests, shrubs, city parks, gardens, and agricultural areas with hedges and shrubs. Interestingly, they tend to nest close to the ground.
As robin choose to nest close to the ground, or even on the ground, people should take care not to step on them or knock the nest off a branch. Also important is knowing not to touch their nests, with either eggs or hatchlings, as robins will abandon their offspring at the scent of humans, leaving them to die.
The adult robin can be 12.5 to 14 cm in size, weighing 16 to 22 grams. Its wingspan range is between 20 to 22 cm. For a songbird, robins are a fairly larg size—with a round body, long legs, and fairly long tail.
Adult robins have an olive-gray color on their upper side (back, tail and wing), a bright yellow-red color on their throat and chest, and white on their belly under the tail. Both male and female robins are colored the same. The only distinguishable difference between male and female robins is the brightness of their color details. Female robins have paler heads that contrast less with their overall olive-gray color. Baby robins are all an inconspicuous gray color, which may appear yellowish in certain lights, until they begin developing their color patterns as they grow.
A recent genetic analysis confirmed that robins are a considerably young species. They have existed for about 320,000 years. For reference, their closest relatives, the Rufus-Collared Thrush, have lived for over 3 million years. While it’s not certain which fundamental evolutionary ancestor robins evolved from, scientists guess that they originated from the extinct species of thrush.
Robins nest twice a year, usually between April and July. Sometimes, the weather conditions will dictate their breeding session and extend it to start from early January to mid-March instead. Female robins generally lay four to six eggs, which she will sit on for about 14 days before they hatch. Both parents will feed the hatchlings, until they become independent young chicks in 12–15 days, typically.
Robins lay four to six eggs in a clutch, usually laying one egg per day. As apart of the incubation process, infants will stay in the egg about 12–14 days after the last egg has been laid. Robins’ eggs are known for their distinctively beautiful blue color. Interestingly, after the eggs have hatched, the female robin will often consume the egg shells to prevent calcium deficiency.
At this stage in their life, young robin chicks depend on their parents to warm and provide them with food to survive. Both robin parents will feed their hatchlings—first, with partially digested food directly into their mouths, then, after a few days, with whole insects and worms. On the third day after hatching, the hatchlings’ feathers begin to grow. Their eyes start to open on about the fifth day, and are fully open by about the eighth day. Somewhere in between days 12–15, they become independent and will leave their nest to learn how to fly for the first time.
After leaving the nest, robin fledglings need to develop enough strength and muscle in their wings. Adult feathers typically grow by the sixteenth day. By that time, their flying ability will have increased considerably. In some cases, fledglings can stay on the ground for 1–2 weeks due to sparse and undeveloped feathers. After a few days, the little robin is officially on its own once mom finally leaves to lay new eggs.
Once robins have reached one full year of life, it is officially an adult. By this time, they will have already found a flock of more experienced robins to fly and hunt for food with. Perhaps the most vital phase of robins’ adulthood is marked by their migration to warmer regions during wintertime, as this process comes with many external hazards—like aggressive predators, low food availability, and other harsh conditions.
A way to determine whether a robin’s age is by the colors of their feathers. Younger robins tend to have paler and browner feathers than more mature robins. White spots on the bird’s face also indicate its maturity. Likewise, robins’ tails become longer as they grow in age.
The robin is a special bird that, in several cultures, is thought to symbolize joy, development, and renewal. Found all throughout North America, it is commonly seen across many lawns—typically in the morning, pulling up worms and embodying the saying, “the early bird gets the worm.” As such, it is considered by many to be the quintessential early bird, signifying the arrival of spring and a new day.
Featured Image Credit: Naturelady, Pixabay
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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