American robin

The official start of spring is March 20th, but for many of us, it’s the sight of a robin hunting for worms in the warming soil that says winter is finally over.

Temple: “The robin’s status as a familiar backyard bird helped it become a favorite harbinger of spring.”

That’s Stanley Temple, senior fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Wisconsin. Temple says that the timing of robins’ migration is based almost entirely on temperature – so when spring thaws come early, so do the robins.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the naturalist Aldo Leopold, his students and colleagues recorded when robins returned to south-central Wisconsin. Now, with winter temperatures higher than ever and spring thaws coming earlier, the Aldo Leopold Foundation has found …

Temple: “As spring temperatures have risen their average return has now advanced almost three weeks, and with milder winters, some robins now never even leave.”

'... with milder winters, some robins now never even leave.' Click To Tweet

As much as we look forward to hearing the red breasted robin sing each spring, spotting an early bird is not a cause for celebration. Instead it can be a reminder that the climate is changing.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

Topics: Species & Ecosystems