The Robins of Winter

Top Photo: One of dozens of American robins pilfering holly berries in Gateway Park.

It’s that time of year again when flocks of robins descend on all available remaining fruit bearing trees and shrubs. Fact is, they flock together all winter long looking for foodstuffs. Apparently, “the more eyes the better to spot food sources,” and the “safety in numbers” theories come into play with these wintering flocks. They group together in fall and break up in spring to breed.

American robin.

It would seem that holly is not a favorite and perhaps a last resort since the birds don’t seem to get around to it till mid-late January when the other fruit is gone. Here at the museum the other fruit is eastern red cedar and pyracantha and to a lesser degree Japanese honeysuckle and privet.

Dozens of robins descend on holly.

The birds have been working the plantings of holly in Gateway Park for the past several days. Evidence of their previous foraging is visible throughout campus where the cedars and firethorn have been stripped bare.

Is holly a last resort for wintering robins?

Soon wandering flocks of cedar waxwings may arrive to join in, if there are any berries left. Waxwings too, wander the countryside searching out fruit bearing trees and shrubs. Keep an eye out, there’ve been sightings of bohemian waxwing in at least one flock of cedar waxwings in Virginia and perhaps western North Carolina.

Cedar waxwing.

Bohemian waxwings are a tad larger than cedar waxwings, more gray overall, have brownish undertail coverts and more black, white, and yellow markings on their wings. Their flocking behavior is much the same as cedar waxwings. Groups of the birds are seen throughout the year. They breed in the far north and west, Alaska and the western Canadian Provinces.

Cedar waxwing showing tail and wing coloration.

Check out any flock of cedar waxwings you encounter, there may be a bohemian in the crowd.

Good luck.

1 response to The Robins of Winter

  1. Carol Henderson says:

    I also think the Robins are starting to flock for their migrations. I saw a flock at Northgate Park near the tennis courts today, 1/28/22. Each February I see groups congregating in the park.

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