News From Terre Haute, Indiana


March 10, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: We’re not only ones ready for springtime

TERRE HAUTE — During the most recent of our numerous descents into polar temperatures, I was astounded to see a dozen or more robins up to their ankles in snow. They were fluffed out to about twice their normal size. I suppose that was an effort to provide a bit of feathered insulation against the cold.

I remember when I was a child and the joy with which we greeted the sighting of the first robin of the spring was a celebration. On occasion you might even get your name in the Kendall County Record, Yorkville’s weekly newspaper, as the lucky one who spotted the first adventurous robin to return to Northern Illinois.

But a friend told me that the robins I saw a week or so ago had been around all winter. I can’t believe robins are that dumb about the weather.

I figured this bunch simply did not get the memo, or had somehow missed the hundreds of flight cancellations which kept human beings grounded. Surely they would have had to file a flight plan if they were early arrivals.

I don’t suppose they were offered a de-icing service. Even if they were, I believe I’d think twice before lifting my wings only to get a blast of wind-chill under them. Maybe they decided to walk around in the snow and keep their wings tucked in tight for extra warmth.

Judging from their very red breasts, they were all male robins. Or maybe they were chapped. I wondered if the female robins had kicked them out of the nest for having cold feet. I think I’d put up with cold feet just to be able to cuddle up with a warm and feathered body — or is that just me?

Maybe they were doing some sort of penance. It’s hard to think of any mortal or even venial sin a robin might commit. They don’t, as far as I know, steal eggs from other birds, or move into someone else’s nest while the occupant is off trying to hustle up lunch for the little ones.

And that brings up another thought. What do these lingering robins find to eat? Even if they could dig through the snow to get to earth, it would take a pneumatic drill to get down where the worms are hibernating. I am told that giving bread to birds isn’t a good idea because bread lacks “nutritional value” for birds. I’m not sure about bird feeders full of seeds, but I suppose any old snack would do to tide them over until the ground thaws.

Let’s hope, for the sake of the stay-at-home robins (and our sakes as well), that the spring thaw isn’t that much longer in coming. I’m ready and I’ll bet they are too.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to

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