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Stalker in the Garden

Like many people, I enjoy turning dirt – gardening and landscaping in my yard.  Not only is it rewarding to see plants grow from meager beginnings, but these actions attracts birds.  In spring and summer when most planting and breaking-of-ground is taking place, I seem to have a stalker that is waiting to pounce the moment I step outside and grab an implement.  It is if an alarm sounds, or perhaps a dinner bell.  The stalker is an American Robin.  A human stirring sod and soil exposes tasty invertebrates, such as earthworms, which are then easy pickings for this common backyard bird.  Like all birds, American Robins are adept at exploiting opportunity because their survival depends on it. During a few instances this spring, an American Robin was collecting small worms in a area I had stirred up.  The bird did not gorge itself on the food, it simply kept collecting more and more in its bill.  It was obviously a female robin gathering food to take to its hungry brood.

American Robin
An American Robin taking advantage of my yard work in order to feed its hungry brood.

About a week ago, I was sweeping off my driveway because clumps of silver maple seeds (a.k.a. “helicopters”) were still there, were decomposing and were a mess.  Immediately, an American Robin appeared and started to pick small invertebrates in areas where my broom had passed over.  After snapping a few photos and comparing them to photos I took earlier in spring (such as the one above), I believe they are of the same bird based on the pattern of the dark gray splotching on the upper portion of the orange breast.

American Robin
An or one of several American Robins that suddenly appear when I begin to work outside. On this occasion I was sweeping off my driveway, removing the cursed piles of silver maple seeds that accumulated earlier in spring.

Whether it is one American Robin or a whole syndicate of opportunists does not really matter.  This is a common occurrence and anyone who stirs the dirt has experienced an American Robin sidling up next to them as they work.    Even so, it is a simple pleasure and I enjoy observing this common species in my ordinary yard doing nothing exceptional.

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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