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Episode 164: Robins Round the World

We finally are covering our first songbird. The Robin is one of the World’s favorite bird and comes in many different species. In this episode we discuss mainly the American and European Robin. However, there are other “Robins” on every other continent (except Antarctica). In total honest, every time we cover a bird we are amazed at so many new facts. Enjoy.

Robin History

We know birds evolved from the dinosaurs. This took place in the Jurassic period nearly 120 million years ago. Songbirds particularly interestingly enough, evolved in Australia! This happened nearly 30 million years ago. When the plates shifted and the islands around Indonesia began to emerge, only then were songbirds allowed to migrate our of Australia and then quickly populate the rest of the world.

Songbirds make up over half of all birds. Out of the 10,000 known species of birds, songbirds number well over 5000. They all are from the Order of Passeriformes.

The American Robin while a songbird, is not closely related to the European Songbird. In fact, they belong to the Turdidae Family. This is the family of Thrushes, which makes up over 300 species. Their scientific name is Turdus migratorius. There are 7 subspecies:

  • The eastern robin(T. m. migratorius)
  • The Newfoundland robin(T. m. nigrideus)
  • The southern robin(T. m. achrusterus)
  • The northwestern robin(T. m. caurinus)
  • The western robin(T. m. propinquus)
  • The San Lucas robin(T. m. confinis)
  • The Mexican robin(T. m. phillipsi)

The European Robin as as songbird belongs to the Family Muscicapidae, which is the Old World Flycatchers. They number over 320 species. Within the European Robin there are 6 subspecies:

  • Erithacus rubecula melophilus
  • E. r. witherbyifrom
  •  E. r. tataricus
  •  E. r. valensof
  • E. r. caucasicus
  • E. r. hyrcanus

Robin Physiology

Most robins do not make it past 13 months in age. However, there have been reports of some European Robins living to be 19 years of age, and American Robins making it to nearly 14 years of age.

The most amazing facts about songbirds are their ability to sing. Songbirds learn their songs and perform them using a specialized voice box called a syrinx. The syrinx represents a rare example of a true evolutionary novelty. Birds sing by producing by vibrations of some or all of the membrana tympaniformis(the walls of the syrinx) and the pessulus, all caused by air flowing through the syrinx. With this airflow sound can be produce that is modulated by the muscle around the syrinx. This special organ gives these birds the ability to change notes immediately, or even carry two notes at once.

It is also worthy to note, Robin eggs are blue. Both species of Robins covered in this episode are classified as Least Concern.

However, the study of the massive loss of birds in North American, nearly 3 billion, can be found HERE

Neonicitoid affect on birds can be found HERE


Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Audubon Society 




June 02, 2020
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