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What is the State Bird of Michigan? (And Why?)

Michigan is nicknamed 'The Great Lake State'. One of the reasons for this is because Michigan has over 64,000 inline lakes and ponds! It is the 10th most populous and 11th largest state in the United States. The state animal for Michigan is the White-tailed Deer, but what is the state bird?

The state of Michigan chose the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), also called the robin redbreast, as the state bird in 1931. This migratory songbird known for its red breast actually has chest feathers that vary in hue from peach to red maroon.

The state bird of Michigan, the American Robin.

The state bird of Michigan, the American Robin.

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Why is the American Robin the state bird for Michigan?

Michigan held a contest to determine its state bird, and the American robin won. According to various sources, House Concurrent Resolution 30 read in part, "The robin is the best known and best loved of all the birds in the State of Michigan." The bird pervades in most Michigan backyards, its woodlands, and its parks.

When did the American Robin become the state bird for Michigan?

Its legislature adopted the bird through legislation on April 8, 1931. It shares the American robin as a state bird with Connecticut and Wisconsin.

American Robin perched

American Robin perched

What does the state bird of Michigan look like?

Both genders of the American robin look alike but the female sports paler red on their chest and stomach. The birds feature a black to dark gray head with a broken eye ring. Typically, these birds have a black bill featuring a brown shade at the base. They have gray upperparts with a white undertail. Their streaked throat and a thin bill of yellow round out the festive nature of this bright, cheery bird. Their winter plumage comes in considerably paler than their summer feathers. Youth of this bird have spotted, whiter breasts.

From head to tail, the American robin measures an average of 8.5 inches but can grow up to 11 inches in length. Its wingspan ranges from 12 to 16 inches. These little birds don’t weigh much – only 2.3 ounces to 3 ounces.

Female American Robin during the winter

Female American Robin during the winter

How do these birds behave?

The cheerful, energetic American robin sings alone, frequenting residential areas to forage for food on lawns. You probably wake up to the song of a robin because they sing early in the morning.

When they travel, the American robin does so as part of a large flock, so long as it isn’t in the breeding season. They frequent both North America and Central America. They love to travel and typically travel to Florida for the winter. The Gulf Coast and central Mexico also prove popular for winter spots for this bird. Some fly to the Pacific coast.

Although in spring and summer, they may live as far north as Canada or Alaska, they enjoy mating and breeding in warmer weather. They reproduce from April to July of each year. They lose a bit of their cheerful nature when breeding because they fiercely defend their territory.

The bird practices serial monogamy, meaning that each year two birds choose one another and pair off to procreate. Their coupling lasts through the breeding season. The following season, each will find a new partner to mate with for that year. The mother typically lays three to five eggs per brood. The robin couple may have two to three broods per year, during the breeding season.

Incubation requires 14 days. When the eggs hatch, the babies have no feathers and no sight. They develop feathers and the ability to see during the next two weeks, while their parents attentively care for them. About two weeks after hatching, the chicks can leave the nest for forays into the world, but their parents continue to look out for them for another two weeks. During this period, they can only fly short distances, so their parents look out for them as they learn to spread their wings and fly. Once proficient at flight, they strike off on their own.

American Robin in a tree

American Robin in a tree

Do American Robins form communities?

American robins form temporary communities. Each year they migrate south for the winter and many robins band together to form a flock. They fly long distances together to maximize safety. Travelling in a great number reduces risk of predator attack.

Once they reach their destination, they break off into smaller numbers. Each bird constructs its own nest. This nest lets them winter in warmth. When they travel back to their permanent home during warmer weather, they build a nest there, too. This nest sits at between 4.9 feet to 14.8 feet above ground. They usually place it in a fork between two tree branches or in dense bush.

Their nest construction blends many hardy materials. They weave these materials together to form a foundation, then smear the interior floor with mud and line it with soft grass, essentially providing themselves with a deep pile wall-to-wall carpeting. The nest’s foundation typically consists of twigs, feathers, coarse grasses, and paper. In addition to soft grasses, you may also see a robin redbreast flying with a piece of cloth in its beak or a bit of bunting from a pillow. They scour their territory for soft items for the interior of the nest. The mother prioritizes this since she will sit on the eggs continuously for two weeks while they incubate.

American Robin searching for worms on the grass

American Robin searching for worms on the grass

What do American Robins eat?

These birds eat an omnivore diet. They enjoy small invertebrates and favorite meals include grasshoppers, beetle grubs, caterpillars, and earthworms. Robins also like seafood, especially mollusks. When they winter at the beach, you can see them dining on small mollusks and insects. They also get their fruits though they don’t eat vegetables. The American robin favors berries as well as cultivated and wild fruit. are a cheerful bird that sings frequently, particularly early in the morning.

To find out more about what American robins eat, check out this article.

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