When American Robins gather to pluck berries, you can expect to see a lot of fluttering. The robins are heavy, making it a lot harder to perch and creep along a thin stem. And they have long, strong legs because they spend so much time walking and hopping on the ground in search of food. An easy way to help robins and other birds is to plant native shrubs.
Snatching Berries on the Wing
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
The next time a flock of robins gathers to pluck berries from that shrub in your back yard, expect a lot of fluttering.
[American Robin “tut” calls; https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/83125241 and https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/82390851]
You’ll see the birds make short hovering moves and quick aerial snatches to grab at berries. But wouldn’t it be easier to just perch on a twig to pluck the fruit? Why expend so much energy?
A couple of things are going on. The berries may hang from slim stems that won’t support the bird’s weight, so when a robin tries to land for the snatch, it falls right off the stem.
Then the birds face another challenge: their long legs get in the way. American Robins have evolved rather long, strong legs for a songbird, because they spend a fair part of their time on the ground. But those long legs make it harder to creep along stems to get to those delicious berries. Imagine yourself standing on stilts, then trying to bend over to tie your shoes!
But all fluttering aside, that flock of robins can clear your yard of berries in a surprisingly short time. Be ready for them next year by planting native shrubs and trees that provide food and cover.
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Support for BirdNote comes from Seattle’s Portage Bay Café & catering. Serving food raised sustainably to help preserve the soil and environment. Info at portagebaycafé.com.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Robert Bethel and Lucas DeCicco.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to Nature.org March 2018/2020 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# AMRO-16-2018-03-12 AMRO-16