This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
Robin, a name applied in the old world to several small dentirostral birds of the family of warblers, and subfamily erythacinoe. In these the bill is short, slender, tapering, depressed at the base, slightly curved and notched at the tip, and the gape and basal portion of the nasal groove covered with bristles; the tarsi are long and slender, covered in front with an entire scale, occasionally showing marks of division; the toes are moderate, the hind one and claw usually the longest, and the claws curved and sharp; tail usually short and broad, and wings moderate and rounded. Gray mentions 15" genera, most of which are inhabitants of the eastern hemisphere, over which they are very generally distributed; they feed on worms, insects, seeds, and fruits, which they seek on the ground or in trees, and when hard pressed approach familiarly human habitations; the nests are large and carefully lined with soft materials, and the eggs generally pale blue. The only genus that can be mentioned here is erythacus (Cuv.), and the single species the robin redbreast (E. rubecula, Cuv.). It is about 5 3/4 in. long, with an alar extent of 9 in.; the prevailing color above is olive-green; the forehead, cheeks, fore neck, and part of breast, light yellowish red.
It is a permanent resident in temperate Europe, Asia Minor, and North Africa, and is the most familiar of the small birds. The song is sweetly modulated, plaintive, and not loud, heard through spring, summer, and autumn, and even in dull and rainy weather when most other song birds are silent; it is one of the latest birds to retire at night, and one of the earliest in the morning; it never congregates in flocks; the food consists of worms (which it beats to death and cleanses before eating), insects, and their larvae. Generally, and especially in the breeding season, it is very pugnacious, driving off all small birds coming near its favorite resorts, and attacking even cats and large birds. The nest is often made in outbuildings which are daily used, and sometimes in situations where there is great confusion and noise; it is made of moss, leaves, and grasses, lined with hair and feathers; the eggs are five or six, white, with pale reddish brown spots. - Birds of very different families in various parts of the world bear this name, as is the case with the American robin, which is one of the thrushes, turdus migrato-rius (Linn.); the generic characters are given under Thrush. This well known bird is nearly twice the size of the European robin; the general color above is olive-gray, with the top and sides of the head black, chin and throat white, black-streaked, breast red, and the under parts chestnut brown; there is considerable variation in the plumage, which is more or less marked with white, even to albinism.
It is distributed over North America, as far as Mexico on the west and to lat. 60° N., breeding over most of this extent. This is one of the first birds seen in the spring, a few in sheltered places remaining all winter as far north as New England, and many arriving there from the south before the snow has disappeared; but most migrate during winter to the southern states, where they are very common, occurring in flocks, and killed in immense numbers. The food of this robin, in spring, consists of insects, worms, and grubs; in summer, of the smaller fruits, like cherries and strawberries, whence its persecution; and in autumn, of wild berries and insects. The song is simple but pleasing and lively, though not to be compared to that of many other thrushes; it much resembles that of the European blackbird (T. merula, Linn.). Much of the regard in which the robin is held here is derived from that accorded to the English robin, which ours resembles in its red breast, familiar disposition, and cheerful notes; it is generally protected, except during the shooting season in the southern and middle states, where it is slaughtered indiscriminately; in Massachusetts the laws forbid its destruction at any time of year.
The nest is often built near houses and in very noisy locations; a robin has been known to build on the timbers of a railroad bridge over a wide sheet of water, on which trains passed at least every hour. The eggs are four to six, bluish green and unspotted; they are rarely molested; two broods are raised in a season, even in New England; the parents are very anxious in regard to the young, uttering a shrill and plaintive cry when the nest is approached; they sometimes breed year after year on the same spot. The flight is rapid, and at times high and long sustained. It is often kept as a cage bird; it is fed on bread soaked in milk or water, fruits, and insects; it is long-lived in captivity, but liable to suffer and die during moulting. The flesh is tender, savory, and easily digested, and a favorite article of food in the middle and southern states. - The golden robin has been described under Baltimore Bird.
Robin Redbreast (Erythacus rubecula).
American Robin (Turdus migratorius).