For as long as I can remember, I have seldom needed an alarm clock. I typically awake on my own, without having my dreams disrupted by bothersome beeping. While human sleep and wake cycles result from nature and nurture, in birds these patterns are inborn. I vaguely recollect learning about a ”bird clock” many years back that outlined the sequence in which feathered beings greet the new day. Commencing several hours before and extending well past the emergence of the solar orb, avians don’t need an alarm clock either, but might serve as one instead. In contrast to artificial jingles, these are the wake-up calls I welcome.

I have visited or lived in Colorado Springs off and on for over twenty years, but have resided here permanently for only the last five. Familiarizing myself with our local bird population has been a pleasure and delight. While we are blessed with rare visitors of exquisite color and beauty, especially during spring and fall migrations, the resident denizens, though possibly less spectacular, are nonetheless a joy, and accompany us during many months. Singling out an individual species is a subjective exercise, but I want to sing the praises of a frequent backyard companion.

American Robins (which bear little resemblance to European Robins) are known throughout the contiguous 48 states, Alaska, and wide stretches of Canada. Even though, in theory, they don’t depart from Colorado in the winter, they are conspicuously absent from our vicinity. During that season they flock to portions of El Paso County that provide them with one of their favorite foods. Next to earthworms that fill their stomachs during warmer periods, they relish berries, and a paucity of those globular stores of energy compels them to relocate to areas of abundance.

In affirmation of an old proverb, their absence during our frigid spells makes my heart grow fonder and fills me with longing for their return, and, come February or March, I rejoice when I first behold them. Handsomely attired, their slate-colored head, back, and wings, orange-red belly, and well-placed touches of white are as cheering as their carols.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Despite their homecoming before the vernal equinox, before the last snow has yet to make an appearance, and when the cold of winter might linger for months, they promise the advent of spring. The early flocks disperse as the weeks progress, and gather in pairs for the breeding season. I enjoy watching them hop or hurry across the lawn, or sit with wings draped next to their bodies, penguin-like. At our bird feeder they perform aerial acrobatics by hovering next to a suet-filled log, in an attempt to glean tasty morsels from it, and they frequently wait for me in the morning to refill their buffet.

Robins are among the earliest risers, and are the first creatures I hear before daybreak. At the height of summer, their morning concert commences as early as 3:30. An introductory chatter is followed by a series of chirps which transitions into a harmonious phrase repeated many times over. The bellwether is soon joined by another singer, and another… After a while I lose count until all I hear are echoes reverberating from adjoining lots, soon complemented by novel melodies and voices. Interestingly, the robins’ tunes diminish before the emergence of the sun, and their vocalizations during the day are intermittent, only to crescendo again past sunset, as if to remind the listener of their continued presence. Their soli outlast those of other performers, and provide a musical bookend to the day.

Members of the thrush family, reputed to comprise some of the most accomplished vocalists, robins remind me of prevalent songsters of my childhood in Germany, Eurasian Blackbirds, which might account for my favoring robinsong. In the bird world, the choral responsibilities rest mainly on males, and much has been said and written about the significance of their music for outlining territory and attracting females. While scientific explanations make biologic sense and are fascinating to ponder, this human soul is content to be filled with a symphony whose ethereal notes float into the cosmos.

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29 thoughts on “Robinsong

  1. Interesting blog post, Tanja. I love the photos! European robins look so beautiful, as well as the American one, but I don’t think I’ve seen or noticed them before. How lucky that you live in an environment with plenty of birds. I love the idea of birds serving as the alarm. Whenever I hear birds chirping in the morning, it reminds me of the arrival of spring 🙂
    My boyfriend is interested in birds and recently installed a feeder at our balcony. Since two weeks we’ve been noticing the woodpeckers – they’re so pretty with the vibrant red lining on the head and under the tail. We most commonly get Great Tit, Eurasian blue tit and the woodpecker at our balcony 🙂 along with sparrows and pigeons hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad you are starting to watch birds, Pooja. They are beautiful to look at and listen to, and bring much happiness. I hope you will get more visitors at your feeder. Whenever I am in Europe, I love watching the tits, too.
      Happy springtime,


  2. Hi Tanja,
    where I live, they are also messengers of spring – together with the Canada Geese!
    While I saw my first flock of geese for this year yesterday, in their perfect “V”-formation, I am still waiting for the Robin to come!
    I am guessing that they will show up somewhere mid-March and I will report them!
    Have a nice evening

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Christa.
      I look forward to seeing photos of your robins. These are from previous years, but I was very happy to see a group of 13 robins two evenings ago, knowing that I planned to publish this post today! Just in time!
      Spring is not far away. I look forward to it!
      All the best,

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great series of images, Tanja.
    I love the first one with the light shining on that beautiful chest and belly colour. Good capture of the beak open in song too. That 1st image really highlights the early morning subject of this post.

    I used to wake to the sound of birdsong early in the morning in my previous apartment, but strangely, not here in my current one.

    I suspect the Doves would visit my previous home location so regularly that they became tame and got used to me going out to stand next to them or fill their seed bowl. It’s an amazing experience to stand about 18-20″ away from a bird and slowly put up your hand next to the seed or water bowl and have a bird sitting on the fence only inches away from your hand. I had to move very slowly though or they would take fright and raise their wings ready to fly off.

    Here, in the western suburbs, I suspect having the nature reserve behind my apartment building is more of a home to them and they merely ‘visit’ from time to time during the day. I haven’t managed to tame any of them here – whatever the species – doves, sparrows, honeyeaters, thrushes or willie wagtails.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Vicki. I love that first photo as well.
      There is nothing more pleasant than awakening to birdsong, at least in my opinion, and it is so much fun to watch the birds’ behavior. As nice as it is to have them come close and not show obvious fear, it is better for them if they don’t get too accustomed to and comfortable with us, as the next person might not have their best interest at heart!
      Best wishes,

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Was für wunderschöne Fotos! Und wieder bin ich begeistert davon, auch die amerikanischen Vögel kennenzulernen. Was für eine tolle Vielfalt. Ja, ich lausche dem morgendlichen Gesang auch gerne. Gerade die Amseln im Sommer sind so schön anzuhören 🙂 Manchmal frage ich mich, ob sie wirklich morgens und abends lauter sind, oder ob unsere hektische Welt dann leiser ist und wir sie so besser hören können?! Ich weiß es nicht. Es ist jedenfalls wunderschön ihnen zuzuhören. Bevor der heftige Frost kam, haben hier schon Zaunkönig und Amselmann gezwitschert, aber jetzt sind sie alle wieder verstummt…hoffentlich wirds bald wärmer! Zu euch kommt der Frühling vielleicht doch etwas eher 🙂 LG, Almuth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Es mag sein, daß wir morgens und abends nicht so viele Ablenkungen haben, und uns dadurch mehr Details auffallen. Ich kann mir eine Welt ohne Vogelgesang gar nicht vorstellen, und hoffe es wird nie dazu kommen!
      Bei uns ist es zwar zur Zeit sehr mild, doch kann es noch bis Mitte Mai schneien und gefrieren, und vor Mitte bis sogar Ende Mai pflanzt hier niemand.
      Dir ein schünes Wochenende, liebe Almuth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Das wünsche ich dir auch. liebe Tanja. Dann ist es ja bei euch so wie bei uns hier. Die empfindlichen Pflanzen dürfen nicht vor Mitte Mai raus, nach den Eisheiligen, wo es immer noch mal Frost geben kann. Eine Welt ohne Vogelgesang kann ich mir auch nicht vorstellen! Wo es tagsüber wärmer ist, zwitschern sie hier schon ganz schön 🙂 LG, Almuth

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Birds are my favorite “alarm” most days. A favorite wake up is – summer day, sailing and waking up in a small harbor somewhere. Hearing birds and waves. That’s relaxing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Whenever I encounter a robin I feel it has such immense personality. Your photos show this off as well. One of my favorite memories was being awakened by a pair of doves nesting in my porch rafters on the island of Saint Lucia. I agree with you, bird song is the best alarm sound!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. I agree, when one takes the time to observe bird, one notices differences in their personality, and that is an amazing phenomenon to ponder.
      Your experience with the doves of Saint Lucia sounds lovely.
      Best wishes,

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting observations on the robin morning chorus… I like the way it builds. I’ve never been awoken by robin song (only crows, magpies and a very persistent male red cardinal) but I do miss the male robin’s spring time song. I’m looking forward to his song chorusing with that of the other male forest birds near my house. A few, rare robins spend the winter in Edmonton where there is flowing water and lots of berries. Great photo of the singing robin and I smiled when I read about them draping their wings on their sides like penguins (they totally do!). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Myriam. I like to keep my window open come springtime because I don’t want to miss out on that marvelous morning chorus! I hope more will arrive in your vicinity soon. I am so glad I am not the only one who has been reminded of penguins!


  8. I used to be awaken by roosters when I was a young girl, living in the province. It was totally different back then and I was always excited to wake up every morning. But now that I”m staying in the city, I wouldn’t even wake up with one alarm and I always struggle to get out of bed. Nature really has a different effect on people.

    Liked by 1 person

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