A Most Unusual Visitor

Dear Readers, some of you reading this from North America might be wondering what all the fuss is about, but for those of us in the UK there’s real excitement at the appearance of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) in Eastbourne on the Sussex coast.  The bird is apparently healthy and is demolishing the cotoneaster berries in a suburban backyard, holding its own amongst the blackbirds and the last of the redwings. And while it’s easy to be sniffy about ‘twitchers’, for many people this will be a rare chance to see a North American bird without jumping on a plane. The local residents have apparently been very understanding about all these chaps turning up with their telescopes and long lenses, and have set up a Gofundme to encourage the people who’ve travelled to donate to Eastbourne Foodbank.

Photo One by By Arustleund - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32745016

Photo One

Although this is an unusual case, it’s not unknown for American Robins to turn up in Europe, and in particular in the UK – there have been 28 recorded cases, with the latest being a bird that arrived in Devon in 2018. American Robins migrate; from the end of August they head south from Canada and the northern USA, and in February they start heading back north. It’s thought that this bird was somehow nudged rather further east than expected due to weather conditions, and has ended up in a Sussex garden. It seems happy enough (often windblown birds are damaged and sick by the time they make landfall), but of course this bird won’t be able to breed unless there’s a miracle and a female turns up too.

And so, good luck, American Robin! In 2003 three American Robins turned up and even tried to stay for the winter, though one of them was killed by a sparrowhawk. It will be interesting to see what happens to this bird.

Photo Credits

Photo One by By Arustleund – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32745016


4 thoughts on “A Most Unusual Visitor

  1. sllgatsby

    Imagine the excitement here in the US if we got one of your adorable little robins! I can quite see what the fuss is about.

    I had to look up “twitcher.” Hmm. I wish people could just let others enjoy things without having to be sniffy about it! I guess it must be human nature to want to spoil someone else’s fun or to rein in enthusiasm about anything. Has the whiff of Puritanical edicts against fun, that. From people criticizing those who love Christmas or pumpkin-flavored anything, to people coining derogatory labels for those who get all excited about birds, or video games, or trains.

    I was happy to read that the bird seems in good health, although he doesn’t have much prospect of a spring romance! I’m sure his every move will be followed and I wish him, and those who are excited to see him, the best of luck.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Getting a European robin in North America would be something, eh, except our little guys don’t really migrate, so have less chance of getting blown off course. Plus the wind blows in the wrong direction, I think. I’m surprised they weren’t introduced when that chap who brought the starlings over was doing his stuff 🙂

      And yes, I love enthusiasts, and ‘twitchers’ over here wear their label with pride! I think that when we’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel, we forget how exciting it is to see a bird that wouldn’t otherwise be within our reach. We had a belted kingfisher the other day too, and a brown booby. I am a little worried that it’s climate change that is increasing the incidence of extreme weather, which means more of these little lost souls will end up in places where they aren’t mean to be. It will be interesting to see.

  2. Sharon

    A few years back we had an American Black-Headed Gull blow in, way off course, to Portsmouth. It took to hanging out with the local Black-Headed Gulls, distinguishable from them by its black ‘military balaclava’ all-over head coloration, as opposed to the chocolate face mask ours have.

    It was still hanging with them the following year, but that was the start of the pandemic and Lockdowns, so I’m not sure what’s happened since, or whether it managed to interbreed.


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