BIRD WATCH: Robins rocket along routine routes

THE FAMILIAR SAYING, “as the crow flies,” is no different than, “as the bird flies.” Simply said, it means “straight.”

Bends in the road, hills to climb and numerous structures are seldom taken into account when a bird is flying from one place to another.

Sometimes, these highways, roads or paths in the air can be deadly for birds. Robins are the most common victim and it is probably their way of flying that is to blame.

When a robin wants to head from one place to another, it flies like a rocket.

There is no casual bobbing or swooping gently through the air.

It seems that time is of the essence and the distance must be conquered as quickly as possible.

That fact once again greeted me one morning. I opened the back door with the intention of checking the outdoor thermometer. It’s located on a wall across from the back porch where a breezeway protects the walk.

A robin shot through the space about two feet in front of me and didn’t even break stride when I appeared.

This female robin was on a mission.

Her destination was the stream in the back yard. Obviously she had just enough time for a quick drink and a hurried bath.

Then she shot off in another direction that would take her into the front yard from whence she came. I think she’s got a nest in the cedar tree and may be on eggs. Her break obviously had to be quick.

The first time I read about these dedicated bird highways in the air, the writer was relating an experience a robin had with a barn door. This door was normally closed but somehow it had been left open.

When the robin came rocketing around that side of the barn, as it had done many times before, it flew right into the door and broke its neck.

This sounds like a freak accident but when these birds are on one of these speed limit-breaking flights, they seem blind to their surroundings.

One day, a friend and I were out in the yard, facing one another as we talked. Before we knew what happened, not one but two robins flew at break-neck speed right between us.

It was quite a surprise for my friend. It was all too familiar to me.

I have often stated that I would hate to be hit by a flying robin. I’m only half-joking.

That time, the birds weren’t headed for a bath or a nest. It was two male robins and the one was bent on chasing the other out of its territory. The loud squawking that accompanied the two made this evident.

Flying robins traveling their chosen route are part of the nesting season in our yard but I never become immune to it. It’s startling when a bird zips past you, and you didn’t even see it coming.

The writer of the robin and the barn door story went on to explain how habituated and tied to a particular route these birds can become.

Right now, this is easy to see where my driveway heads downhill to the street.

A robin flying about 10 feet above the road takes this route daily. Its flight is always swift and it disappears into the same location every time. I think a pair of robins are nesting in one of the neighbor’s tall, thick evergreen shrubs.

Their straight, swift flight takes them to my source of water.

It will be interesting to see if the pattern continues once they begin digging for worms and bugs in the lawn.

They may continue to “fly straight as the crow,” but hopefully not as fast when they have a beak full of food.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected]

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