Overview

Brief Summary

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) breeds from most of Canada south, in the mountains, to southern Mexico. The winter range is shifted somewhat to the south. American Robins are found in cities and towns, on lawns, on farmland, and in forests. In winter, they are often associated with berry-bearing trees. In the arid southwestern United States, they summer mainly in coniferous forests in the mountains, rarely in the well-watered lowland suburbs. This common and widespread thrush is often seen running and hopping on lawns searching for earthworms, which are an important part of the diet, along with insects and berries (fruit may account for 60% of the diet year-round). Young are fed mainly on insects and earthworms. Contrary to popular belief, earthworms are located by sight, not sound. American Robins may nest in trees and shrubs, on eaves and ledges of barns, and even on window sills.

The American Robin's rich, rollicking song is often heard very early in the day in spring and summer, before first light. Males arrive on the nesting grounds before females and defend territories by singing (and sometimes fighting). In early courtship, females may be actively pursued by one or several males. The nest is built mainly by the female., usually1 to 8 m above the ground (up to around 20 m). The nest is a cup of grasses, twigs, and debris, worked into a solid foundation of mud and lined with fine grasses and plant fibers. The 3 to 7 pale blue eggs (usually 4) are incubated by the female for 12 to 14 days. Both parents feed the young, but the female more than the male. Parents are very aggressive in defending the nest. Young leave the nest around 14 to 16 days after hatching. Males may continue to care for the fledged young while the female initiates a second brood. In fall and winter, foraging American Robins may gather in large flocks. Migrating flocks often travel by day. Wintering range and migration habitats may vary a great deal from year to year and location to location, depending on weather and local food supplies.

(Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunn and Alderfer 2011)

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Distribution

American robins are native to the Nearctic region. They occur year-round in southern Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia, throughout most of the United States and along the Sierra Madre into southern Mexico. They migrate south for the winter, going as far as southern Mexico and Guatemala. In summer they are found as far north as northernmost Canada and Alaska. American robins are the most abundant and widespread North American thrush.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Sallabanks, R., R. James. 1999. American Robin (Turdus migratorius). Birds of North America, 462: 1-20.
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends from western and northern Alaska eastward across northern Canada to Labrador and Newfoundland, and south to southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, Sonora, southern Mexico (Oaxaca and verzcruz), U.S. Gulf Coast, and (rarely) central Florida; also resident in mountains of southern Baja California (AOU 1998). Winter range extends from southern Alaska (rarely), southern Canada, and the northern contiguous United States south to Baja California, Guatemala, U.S. Gulf Coast, southern Florida, Bermuda, western Cuba, and (rarely northern Bahamas (AOU 1998).

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Geographic Range

American robins are native to the Nearctic region. They occur year-round in southern Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia, throughout most of the United States and along the Sierra Madre into southern Mexico. They migrate south for the winter, going as far as southern Mexico and Guatemala. In summer they are found as far north as northernmost Canada and Alaska. American robins are the most abundant and widespread North American thrush.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Sallabanks, R., R. James. 1999. American Robin (Turdus migratorius). Birds of North America, 462: 1-20.
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Physical Description

Morphology

American robins are birds that measure 25 cm in length and average 77 g in weight. Males are only slightly larger than females. They are brown on their backs, reddish on the breast, and white on their lower belly and under their tail feathers. Their throats are white, streaked with black. They have white crescents above and below their eyes. Females are slightly paler in color than males. Young American robins have dark spots on their breasts and are also paler in color than adult males.

Average mass: 77 g.

Range length: 23 to 28 cm.

Average length: 25 cm.

Range wingspan: 119 to 137 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male more colorful

Average mass: 75.5 g.

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Physical Description

American robins are birds that measure 25 cm in length and average 77 g in weight. Males are only slightly larger than females. They are brown on their backs, reddish on the breast, and white on their lower belly and under their tail feathers. Their throats are white, streaked with black. They have white crescents above and below their eyes. Females are slightly paler in color than males. Young American robins have dark spots on their breasts and are also paler in color than adult males.

Average mass: 77 g.

Range length: 23 to 28 cm.

Average length: 25 cm.

Range wingspan: 119 to 137 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male more colorful

Average mass: 75.5 g.

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Size

Length: 25 cm

Weight: 77 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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American robins occur mainly in woodlands, gardens, orchards, lawns, and fields. They prefer areas of open ground or short grass for foraging, with woodland or a few scattered trees and shrubs nearby for nesting and roosting. Suburban and agricultural areas often provide these kinds of habitats so American robins are common near humans. They need dense shrubs and small trees in which to build their nests. They build nests deep in dense foliage to protect their young from predators.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Comments: American robins use a wide range of habitats, including forest, woodland, scrub, parks, thickets, gardens, cultivated lands, savanna, swamps, and suburbs. They are attracted to areas with damp ground or small fruits. Nests are in forks or on branches of trees or shrubs, on building ledges, sometimes on fences, posts, or cliff ledges, or rarely on the ground; usually 1-6 meters above ground.

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American robins occur mainly in woodlands, gardens, orchards, lawns, and fields. They search for food (forage) in areas of open ground or short grass. They nest and roost in the edges of woodland or scattered trees and shrubs. They need dense shrubs and small trees in which to build their nests. They build nests deep in dense foliage to protect their young from predators. Suburban and agricultural areas often provide these kinds of habitats so American robins are common near humans.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Most American robins that nest in Alaska, Canada, and northern United States migrate south for winter. The number of individuals staying north varies from year to year. Southward migrations may begin in August and can be extensive in October and November; specific timing varies among locations and years. Northward migrations begin in February in the southern United States. Arrivals in breeding areas in the northern United States occur mostly in March and April.

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Trophic Strategy

American Robins feed on a mixture of both wild and cultivated fruits, berries, earthworms, and insects such as beetle grubs, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. Robins are flexible and will turn to whichever food is most readily accessible, although the diet generally consists of approximately 40% invertebrates, 60% fruits and berries.

Animal Foods: eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms

Plant Foods: fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Comments: Eats worms, insects, and other invertebrates (mostly obtained on ground), and small fruits (Terres 1980). Diet throughout range dominated by fruits (especially Rosaceae) in fall and winter, invertebrates (especially Coleoptera, Lepidoptera) in spring.

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Food Habits

American robins feed on a mixture of fruits, berries, Oligochaeta, and insects such as Coleoptera grubs, Lepidoptera, and Orthoptera. Their diet usually consists of about 40% insects and 60% fruits and berries. However, American robins are flexible and will eat whichever food is most available. American robins get a lot of moisture from the foods they eat, especially juicy berries and insects, but they also may need to drink free standing water from pools.

Animal Foods: eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms

Plant Foods: fruit

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Associations

American robins are important as prey items to their predators because there are so many of them. They also act to control some insect populations and to disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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American robins may mob small predators, such as blue jays and snakes. They also produce chirping and chucking sounds as warning calls.

Predators on young and adults differ somewhat. Eggs and young are often eaten by different types of squirrels, snakes, and birds such as blue jays, common grackles, American crows, and common ravens. Adult American robins are preyed upon by hawks, cats, and larger snakes.

American robins are vigilant when feeding, they may feed in loose flocks, so that they can also watch other robins for reactions to predators.

Known Predators:

  • snakes (Serpentes)
  • hawks (Accipitridae)
  • squirrels (Sciuridae)
  • blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata)
  • common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula)
  • American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  • common ravens (Corvus corax)
  • domestic cats (Felis silvestris)

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Ecosystem Roles

American robins are important as prey items to their predators because there are so many of them. They also act to control some insect populations and to disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

American robins may mob, or attack, small predators, such as Cyanocitta cristata and Squamata. They also produce chirping and chucking sounds as warning calls. Predators on young and adults differ somewhat. Eggs and young are often eaten by different types of Sciuridae, Squamata, and birds such as Cyanocitta cristata, Quiscalus quiscula, Corvus brachyrhynchos, and Corvus corax. Adult American robins are preyed upon by Accipitridae, Felis silvestris, and larger Squamata.

American robins are vigilant when feeding, which means that they spend a lot of time watching for predators. They may feed in loose flocks, so that they can also watch other robins for reactions to predators.

Known Predators:

  • snakes (Serpentes)
  • hawks (Accipitridae)
  • squirrels (Sciuridae)
  • blue jays (Cyanocitta_cristata)
  • common grackles (Quiscalus_quiscula)
  • American crows (Corvus_brachyrhynchos)
  • common ravens (Corvus_corax)
  • domestic cats (Felis_silvestris)

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Known predators

Turdus migratorius is prey of:
Accipiter striatus
Accipiter cooperii
Mustelinae
Accipiter gentilis
Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Geococcyx velox
Lynx rufus
Canis latrans

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
USA: Arizona, Sonora Desert (Desert or dune)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • P. G. Howes, The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World: A Brief Biology of the Giant Cactus Forest of Our American Southwest (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown, Boston; 1954), from pp. 222-239, from p. 227.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
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Known prey organisms

Turdus migratorius preys on:
Insecta
shrubs
grass
herbs
Coleoptera
ground invertebrates
mistletoe
Pogonomyrmex
Orthoptera
Lepidoptera
Gryllidae
cactus weevils
Moneilema
Atta
Plethodon cinereus

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
USA: Arizona, Sonora Desert (Desert or dune)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed February 16, 2011 at http://animaldiversity.org. http://www.animaldiversity.org
  • P. G. Howes, The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World: A Brief Biology of the Giant Cactus Forest of Our American Southwest (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown, Boston; 1954), from pp. 222-239, from p. 227.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
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General Ecology

Defends nesting territories but may also use undefended feeding grounds up to 300 meters distant (Knupp et al. 1977).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Soon after hatching nestlings begin to beg for food by chirping. Adult American robins use chirping or chucking to warn of the presence of a predator. Males begin to sing in the late winter and early spring. This song is a familiar sound in the springtime and sounds something like 'cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.' American robins sing frequently throughout the day, but particularly early in the morning. They most often sing from a perching spot high in a tree.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Soon after hatching nestlings begin to beg for food by chirping. Adult American robins use chirping or chucking to warn of the presence of a predator. Males begin to sing in the late winter and early spring. This song is a familiar sound in the springtime and sounds something like 'cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.' American robins sing frequently throughout the day, but particularly early in the morning. They most often sing from a perching spot high in a tree.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Cyclicity

Comments: During the breeding season, the American robin is one of the first birds to sing in the morning and one of the last to stop in the evening.

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Life Expectancy

One wild bird lived to be almost 14 years old, though most American robins in the wild will live about 2 years. Only about one quarter of all young American robins will survive the summer in which they were born.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
14 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
2 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
167 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

One wild bird lived to be almost 14 years old, though most American robins in the wild will live about 2 years. Only about one quarter of all young American robins will survive the summer in which they were born.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
14 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
2 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
167 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 17 years
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Reproduction

Males and females form a pair bond during breeding season and while raising their young.

Mating System: monogamous

American robins breed in the spring shortly after returning to their summer range (north) from their winter range (south). The breeding season extends from April through July. American robins are one of the first birds to begin laying eggs and normally have two or three sets of young, or broods, in each breeding season. The cup-shaped nest is built by the female, who builds the outer foundation with long coarse grass, twigs, paper, and feathers woven together. She lines the inner bowl with mud, smearing it with her breast and later adding fine grass or other soft material to cushion the eggs. The nest can be located on the ground or high up in trees, but most commonly 5 to 15 feet above ground in a dense bush, in the crotch of trees, or on window ledges or other human structures. All that is needed for the nest is a firm support and protection from rain. A new nest is built to raise each brood. In northern areas the first clutch is generally placed in an evergreen tree or shrub, and the later clutches are laid in a deciduous tree. From 3 to 5 eggs are laid in each clutch.

Breeding interval: American robins breed once or twice yearly.

Breeding season: American robins breed from April to July.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 5.

Average time to hatching: 14 days.

Average fledging age: 13 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 13 days.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Eggs are incubated by the female. After about 14 days of incubation the eggs hatch. She continues to feed and brood the chicks while they are very young. When the nestlings become older the female broods them only at night or during bad weather. Baby birds leave the nest about 2 weeks after they have hatched. All babies from a clutch leave the nest within 1 day of each other. Even after leaving the nest, the young birds follow their parents and beg food from them. They remain under cover on the ground during this time. About two weeks after fledging, young American robins become capable of sustained flight.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Sallabanks, R., R. James. 1999. American Robin (Turdus migratorius). Birds of North America, 462: 1-20.
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Egg laying usually begins in April or (in some northern or high elevation areas) May, and nesting may continue into July. Clutch size is 3-6 (usually 4). Incubation, by female, lasts usually 11-14 days. Both parents tend young, which leave the nest 14-16 days after hatching. Individual females produce/attempt usually 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

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Males and females form a pair bond during breeding season and while raising their young.

Mating System: monogamous

American robins breed in the spring shortly after returning from their winter range. The breeding season extends from April through July. American robins are one of the first birds to begin laying eggs each spring. They normally have two or three sets of young (broods) in each breeding season. 3 to 5 eggs are laid in each clutch. ("Clutch" means the group of eggs laid in one nest attempt. "Brood" means the number of baby birds that hatch out of the eggs, so the brood may be smaller than the clutch.)

A new nest is built for each clutch of eggs. The female robin builds the cup-shaped nest. The outer foundation is made from long coarse grass, twigs, paper, and feathers woven together. She smears mud onto the inner bowl with her breast. She later lines the inner bowl with fine grass or other soft material. This lining helps cushion the eggs.

The nest can be located on the ground or high up in trees. They are most commonly found 5 to 15 feet above ground. Robin's nests might be in a dense bush, in the crotch of trees, or on window ledges or other human structures. All of these provide a firm support and protection from rain. In northern areas the first clutch is generally placed in an evergreen tree or shrub. The later clutches are laid in a deciduous tree.

Breeding interval: American robins breed once or twice yearly.

Breeding season: American robins breed from April to July.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 5.

Average time to hatching: 14 days.

Average fledging age: 13 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 13 days.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Eggs are incubated by the female, which means that she sits on the nest to keep the eggs warm until they hatch. After about 14 days of incubation the eggs hatch. She continues to feed and brood (keep them warm by sitting on them) the chicks while they are very young. When the nestlings become older the female broods them only at night or during bad weather. Baby birds leave the nest about 2 weeks after they have hatched. All babies from a clutch leave the nest within 1 day of each other. Even after leaving the nest, the young birds follow their parents and beg food from them. They remain under cover on the ground during this time. Fledging is when baby birds leave the nest. About two weeks after fledging, young American robins become capable of sustained flight.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Sallabanks, R., R. James. 1999. American Robin (Turdus migratorius). Birds of North America, 462: 1-20.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Turdus migratorius

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 25 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACTGCCCTA---AGTCTCCTCATCCGAGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCAGGTGCTCTCCTAGGCGAC---GACCAAATCTACAACGTGGTTGTCACCGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTTATACCAATTATGATCGGAGGGTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTAATA---ATCGGAGCCCCAGACATAGCATTCCCCCGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTTTGACTCCTTCCCCCATCCTTCCTTCTTCTCCTAGCCTCCTCCACAGTAGAAGCTGGGGCAGGGACAGGTTGAACCGTCTACCCACCCCTCGCCGGCAACCTAGCACACGCAGGGGCTTCAGTAGACTTG---GCCATTTTCTCCCTACACTTAGCAGGGATCTCCTCAATCCTAGGGGCCATCAACTTCATCACAACAGCAATCAACATAAAACCACCCGCCCTTTCACAATACCAGACCCCCCTATTCGTCTGATCAGTCCTAATCACCGCAGTGCTACTCCTGCTATCCCTCCCCGTTCTTGCCGCT---GGAATCACCATGCTCCTCACCGACCGCAACCTAAACACAACCTTCTTTGACCCAGCAGGGGGAGGAGACCCAGTACTATACCAACACCTATTCTGG------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ATT
-- end --

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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Turdus migratorius

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 29
Specimens with Barcodes: 40
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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