After braving wintry weather, power outages, water issues, and bursting pipes, Houston is enjoying at least one ray of sunshine: in the form of a massive influx of American robins.
Robins regularly migrate to the South every winter, but in 2021, they've become a spectacular presence, with swarms of robins swooping in and hanging out, everywhere from the courtyards of inner-city lofts to the postage-stamp front yards of the suburbs.
Maybe the white canvas of snow made them more obvious when they first showed up in January, or maybe it's the fact that the power outage has ruled out TV for entertainment.
The profusion of birds has been noted by the aviary experts at Houston Audubon Society, who say that robins have been noticed in massive numbers in the Greater Houston area lately.
Educator Mary Anne Weber tells CultureMap she first noticed large numbers in January. "We don’t typically see them at the center I run for Houston Audubon so it was very noticeable when large flocks started to show 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 always larger numbers in the winter. "This winter has been exceptional as very large flocks have descended on our region," Weber says.
She credits the large numbers of robins to "irruption" years. "More robins that typically stay north have moved south in search of food," she says. "Robins tend to switch to feeding on berries in the winter since foraging on the snow covered ground up north can be difficult. These large flocks indicate that food was tough to find in northern habitats."
The best way to welcome robins to local landscapes is to plant berry producing trees and shrubs like hollies and to not use any type of pesticide on lawns, Weber advises. Robins are well known for eating worms, but in the winter, they switch their diet to fruit and berries.
Steven Devadanam contributed to this story.