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.
Perhaps the blanket of white snow made them more evident when they first surfaced in January, or perhaps it is 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 sighted 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 at the center where I’m running for Houston Audubon, so it was very noticeable when large flocks came up,” she notes, adding that “we still have large flocks of robins here in Houston.”
Greater Houston and its surrounding suburbs and cities see robins year-round, but in increasing numbers in winter. “This winter was extraordinary because very large herds came to our region,” says Weber.
She attributes the great number of robins to “burglary” years. “More robins that normally stay north have moved south in search of food,” she says. “Robins tend to feed on berries in winter, as foraging for food on the snow-covered ground in the north can be difficult. These large herds indicate that food was difficult to find in northern habitats. ”
The best way to welcome robins into local landscapes is to plant berry-producing trees and shrubs like holly and not to use pesticides on lawns, advises Weber. Robins are known to eat worms, but switch their diet to fruits and berries in winter.
Houston isn’t the only place robins pop up: Similar sightings have been made in Dallas, Austin, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City, where they are seen in swarms of 100 or more.
Steven Devadanam contributed to this story.