[CT Birds] I Have a Question for This Site

james.bair at snet.net james.bair at snet.net
Sun May 11 20:09:27 EDT 2014

Paul Carrier wrote:

Did our American Robin do the same as this Hermit Thrush did (Both being Thrushes) by searching for food on the ground within and under the forest before we settlers, developers invented the Grass Lawn? And - How and why and when did the Robin change over to living their lives dependent on our cut grass lawns ? The Robin seems to be almost completely dependent now on this new life style, and why didn't the Hermit and other closely related Thrushes do the same??

Dear Paul,

I believe the difference has to do with the habitats the birds prefer. Robins are “creatures of the margins” as are people. We like the edges of the woods; we make clearings and lawns. If the land is too wide open, we plant trees and windbreaks and hedges. Birds that prefer these habitats like Robins and Mockingbirds have flourished alongside man. Hermit Thrushes got their name because they prefer the deeper woods away from people, like a hermit. The poet Walt Whitman said the hermit thrush sang “From deep secluded recesses.”

We are most likely to encounter Wood Thrushes in Connecticut, but they do prefer woods, hence their name. The Veery prefers damp areas which people generally do not like and will often try to drain, making them less attractive to the Veery. The other thrushes simply nest in remote areas that are not easily accessible by man. It really has to do with their preferred habitats. My understanding is that bluebirds were much more common in North America because of the open farm fields in the nineteenth century, but they had to compete with Starlings and House Sparrows, so their story is different from that of the other thrushes.

In Europe, there is a similar difference of preferred habitat between the brown thrushes (Thrush and Nightingale) and the Blackbird, which is the “lawn thrush” of Europe and really does resemble an American Robin except that all its feathers are black.

I hope this helps. But it looks like a matter of preferred habitat.

Jim Bair

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