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Bird talk

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Why do robins arrive at their summer homes when winter weather is often at its worst? It's a question I've wondered about every year when I spy the first robin of the season, but never tried to answer -- till today.

The temperature in Boston finally climbed above freezing today for the first time in weeks, so my husband and I got out and walked around town for an hour or more. Down near the Charles River (frozen over), we saw a big fat robin standing in the snow.

At that moment I made up my mind that this year I'd either find an authoritative answer on the Web or I'd call the Audubon Society. I already knew that the early robins were generally males who were scouting homes for the summer. And that obviously the reason is that, as the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm, or, in this case, his choice of accommodations.

But why fly in with snow on the ground, temps barely above freezing, and more winter weather surely on tap, this being New England?

Well, you can chalk some if it up to instinct, says bird expert Sam Fried on GORP, in answer to a question from someone in Massachusetts about 25 robins arriving just before a snowstorm: "Probably triggered by lengthening daylight hours and internal hormones, American robins surge north from their wintering grounds in the southern United States, regardless of the local weather conditions."

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