Robins

As dawn approached, my wife, Cathy and I heard juncos and one or two robins calling. I didn’t expect to hear the robins, but knew that some do overwinter. After a few minutes, we noticed that robins were flying overhead above tree level in small groups. Within 15 minutes, we had counted 2500 robins! The robins were flying in a southwest direction over Southboro Road. The roosting site was in the direction of Mammouth Trail. I would guess that they were leaving the roost in all directions suggesting a much higher number. There were smaller numbers of other birds mixed in that appeared to be blackbirds and starlings.
[The robins were leaving their overnight roosting sites and disbursing to other areas that offer available food. Their behavior is very different in winter compared to summer. In summer, they are commonly seen hopping across your lawn, stopping, peering down at the ground with one eye, pulling worms from the soil, and also nesting in your front-yard tree. In winter, they are much less visible. They hang out in orchards or over-grown farms, and swamps where food such as American holly (winterberry), bittersweet, and fruiting ornamentals is available. National Audubon keeps over 100 years of data from Christmas Bird Counts (counts are done within 2 weeks of Christmas) across North America.
Their data indicates that robins were uncommon (1 observed per hour) in the winter in Massachusetts until the 1990’s, with counts now totaling 10-30 per hour. Why are they occurring more often? Is it climate change? Or perhaps, available winter food sources due to ornamental plantings?

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