Guest Author - Lisa Shea
One of the very first birds any child can identify is the robin. They have bright red breasts and sit in the middle of your lawn, quite easy to see. Which leads kids to wonder - just how do they find those worms?
First, robins are usually seen in the lawn doing their worm-hunting first thing in the morning. There's a phrase "The early bird gets the worm" that comes from their habit. The worms are closest to the surface in the morning, because the ground is nice and cool and damp with dew. Later during the day, the ground gets quite hot and the poor worms would roast if they were near the surface.
So now you have a red-breasted robin hopping around on the cool ground, looking for his worm. A study done in the 1990s isolated each of the robin's various senses to see which the robin used most. It turns out that hearing is the most important sense - that the robin listens for the small noises a worm makes while burrowing along in the ground.
The robin DOES use its other senses too - watching for movement, feeling for rumbling with its feet. But the main sense that helps out the most is the robin's hearing. One sense a robin does NOT use is its sense of smell. The robin has a really poor sense of smell, and it would not help out a robin at all.
Photos of the American Robin
European Robin Information
Photo by Lisa Shea