After wintry weather, power outages, water problems and burst pipes, Houston enjoys at least one ray of sunshine: in the form of a massive influx of American robins.
Robins regularly migrate south every winter, but by 2021 they have become a spectacular presence, with flocks of robins tumbling in and hanging around everywhere from the courtyards of inner-city lofts to the courtyards of the postage stamps in the suburbs.
Perhaps the white canvas of snow made them more evident when they first emerged in January, or maybe it’s the fact that the blackout left television off for entertainment.
The abundance of birds was noted by the aviary experts at the Houston Audubon Society, who say robins have been seen in large numbers recently in the greater Houston area.
Educator Mary Anne Weber tells CultureMap that she first noticed large numbers in January. “We don’t usually see them in the center I run for Houston Audubon. So it was very noticeable when large herds came up,” she notes, adding, “we still have large herds of robins here in Houston.”
Robins are found year round in the greater Houston area and surrounding suburbs and cities, but increasing in number in winter. “This winter was extraordinary because very large herds came to our region,” says Weber.
She attributes the large number of robins to “hiatus years”. “More robins that normally stay north have moved south in search of food,” she says. “Robins are more likely to feed on berries in winter because foraging on the snow-covered ground in the north can be difficult. These large flocks indicate that it was difficult to find food in northern habitats.”
The best way to welcome robins to local landscapes is to plant berry-producing trees and shrubs like hollies and not to use pesticides on lawns, Weber advises. Robins are known to eat worms, but in winter they switch their diet to fruits and berries.
Houston isn’t the only place robins show up: there have been similar sightings in Dallas, Austin, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City, where they are seen in flocks of 100 or more.
Steven Devadanam contributed to this story.