Updated: Oct 13, 2020
The American Robin does not abandon any state in the lower 48 for the winter. This common misconception has led many to call the American Robin the harbinger of spring. (When the true harbinger of spring for Wyoming has already been decided.)
I'm not trying to burst any bubbles, but occasionally, we must take inaccurate information and thoroughly smack it with a blog post, until nothing remains. Today, I am attempting to destroy the myth that the American Robin does not winter in many northern states. If you live in Canada or Alaska, this post does not apply to you. For everyone else, this is a graphic-heavy post, where the maps do the talking for me.
I had to save some of my free time for finishing "Birding in Yellowstone National Park," right?
American Robin Range Map
The American Robin is a widespread thrush throughout North America. There are seven recognized subspecies, ranging from residents in southern Mexico, to migratory populations in northern Alaska. Note, the "Year-round" occurrence designation does not mean the same individual birds are present year-round. The year-round designation indicates that the species is present in that location, regardless of the season. Much of the area in the I-10 states, Florida to SoCal, only experience American Robins in wintertime.
Winter Range of the American Robin
In the map above, the non-breeding abundance of the American Robin is provided. There is no single state, in the Lower 48, that does not host American Robins in the non-breeding season (December through February). Audubon Christmas Bird Count trends (below) also point to fewer birds wintering in the Gulf states and the desert southwest states. More birds appear to be spending more time in the northern states. Mild winter temperatures, more available food sources, and unusual weather patterns are all likely contributing to this seasonal change.
Abundance Trends for the American Robin
The map above indicates that bird-lovers are likely to see a more American Robins, each year, if they live in the northern states. Those living in the southern states will see fewer robins each year. The data used comes from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, so this applies especially to the winter months.
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Range & Abundance Maps: Fink, D., T. Auer, A. Johnston, M. Strimas-Mackey, O. Robinson, S. Ligocki, B. Petersen, M. Iliff, and S. Kelling. eBird Status and Trends. Version: November 2019. https://ebird.org/science/status-and-trends. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
Trend Map: Meehan, T.D., LeBaron, G.S., Dale, K., Michel, N.L., Verutes, G.M., and Langham, G.M. 2018. Abundance trends of birds wintering in the USA and Canada, from Audubon Christmas Bird Counts, 1966-2017, version 2.1. National Audubon Society, New York, New York, USA.