Iowans are calling the Department of Natural Resources to ask why the robins are back already. DNR biologist Bruce Ehresman says they’re not, they never left. Ehresman says the winter overall has still been milder than usual, and not all migrating birds fly the same direction, the same distance, on some kind of rigid schedule.
There are a number of species that only go as far south as they have to. He says in addition to songbirds like robins and bluebirds that have remained this winter, Canada geese and bald eagles will only travel as far as they must to survive the winter. He says it’s likely there is a relationship between our recent mild winters and the increasing number of birds found over-wintering right here in the Midwest.
Residents of Bellevue and some other Iowa towns report robins, and Ehresman says they aren’t coming back early, they’re flying southward into Iowa. This winter, there really wasn’t much snow in Minnesota and Wisconsin, so robins remained and could find plenty of food. With our recent blast of cold and snow, Iowa saw an "influx of robins."
And despite the extreme cold and snow in the early part of February, the wildlife biologist says the snowbird songbirds didn’t suffer big losses. "I haven’t heard any reports of any loss of robins," he says. A few wild birds have probably died, he says, but many spotted in large numbers in January have probably just flown farther south.
There are still quite a few robins around, he says, he’s seeing them every day at his office at Ledges State Park in Boone, in Ames where he lives, in rural areas and on farmsteads, places you typically wouldn’t see them this time of year. He says you can spot other birds like chickadees, cardinals and woodpeckers that normally are gone from Iowa this time of year.