Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are you seeing robins yet?

If you live in American robin range, have the robins returned yet? This bird is generally so beloved that it's startling to read John James Audubon's description of them as "fat and juicy" birds that "afford excellent eating." Long before laws were passed that prohibit killing most birds, the great ornithologist sampled many of his subjects.

And he certainly wasn't alone. In 1841, he wrote that the robins' return to Southern states in the fall caused "a sort of jubilee among the gunners, and the havoc made among them with bows and arrows, blowpipes, guns, and traps of different sorts is wonderful. Every gunner brings them home by the bagsful, and the markets are supplied with them at a very cheap rate. Several persons may at this season stand round the foot of a tree loaded with berries, and shoot the greater part of the day, so fast do the flocks of Robins succeed each other."

Today it's not only difficult to imagine people shooting and eating robins--it's also startling to think how many birds there must once have been compared to what we see today.

The red, red robin 





You can read more about the red, red robin in Passionate Slugs & Hollywood Frogs: An Uncommon Field Guide to Northwest Backyards.

12 comments:

  1. Three weeks ago I saw over thirty of them on the soccer field at the college. And that was before the daffodils popped out. First sign of spring indeed!

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  2. Yup, we've got robins around my house.

    I think it's strange how some old-school naturalists killed the animals that they were fond of for sport or food. But I guess naturalists have been killing animals for scientific collections for hundreds of years.

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  3. Wow- I had no idea that Robins were once food for humans! They sure seem like easy targets. They let me get pretty close to take photos, not to mention nest in very accessible places.

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  4. By the way, I might add that I love your book (slugs and frogs) and have owned it for a while!

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  5. Thanks, Mike! It's a funny thing to send a book off into the world--you never know where it ends up. I'm trying my hand at a novel next--"Kidnapping the Lorax" is available as an ebook now (amazon & smashwords) & soon to be available as a paperback. Fiction is a different realm than nonfiction...we'll see what folks think.

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  6. Scores of robins yesterday in Canby, OR at Mollala River State Park

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  7. You're an amazing writer. Sooner or later I've got to read everything you've written.

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  8. I know spring has arrived when the demeted robbin repeatedly smashes his face against my windows. Nothing I do can persuade him that it is just his reflection.

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  9. I see robins everywhere I go!!! I have them in my yard as well as bluejays, lots of finches, hawk, owls, a few cantankerous crows, and a couple small yello birds I am told are goldfinches. Oh, and squirrels...owls have not got them yet!

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  10. You're an amazing writer. Sooner or later I've got to read everything you've written.

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  11. Scores of robins yesterday in Canby, OR at Mollala River State Park

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  12. Yup, we've got robins around my house.

    I think it's strange how some old-school naturalists killed the animals that they were fond of for sport or food. But I guess naturalists have been killing animals for scientific collections for hundreds of years.

    ReplyDelete