Backyard Birds, Everyday Epiphany, humor, Outdoors

Rockin’ Robins

That’s what I named the pair of Turdus migratorius building a nest on the outdoor speaker under my eaves. Mrs. Rockin’ plucked, yanked, and tugged at the dried winter garden debris that I should’ve plucked, yanked, and tugged out of the flowerbed a month ago. With mud for mortar, she recycled the potential compost into a safe haven for her future family.

I hummed the 1957 hit “Rockin’ Robin” as I observed this minor miracle unfold. 

Mr. Rockin’ donated a few wispy strands for the nest lining then alighted the rooftop belting out a string of “cheerily, cheer-up” syllables.

My hummings turned to wonderings. I didn’t wonder about choice of nesting site or nesting construction skill (that would come later). I wondered about the song replaying in my head.

“Rockin’ Robin’s” listening audience extended beyond “Boomerdom.” This classic, originally sung by Bobby Day and written by Leon Rene, had been covered over 20 times with Michael Jackson’s 1972 version being the most popular. You may have tapped your feet to it while watching “American Graffiti,” “We’ve Got Mail,” or “Rags to Riches.” Disney’s minions boogied to it and Donald Duck rattled maracas to it. 

To refresh your music memory watch this “Rags to Riches” clip on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9tPeeGQEPE

I understand that neither Bobby Day nor Leon Rene were academic ornithologists or avid bird watchers. Nevertheless, I wondered if ANY of the snappy lyrics were based upon Turdus migratorius facts. After comparing each stanza to online research and my observations I found the following:

Rockin’ Robin Lyric: “Tweedle-lee-dee-dee-dee, tweedle-lee-dee-dee” 

Robin Observation/Research: The most familiar Robin call is the clear cheerily-cheer-up-cheerio loudly performed at dawn. This prolonged rising and falling is a string of ten or more syllables with a dramatic pause before repeating. With my opened window, Robin was my rooster. I knew it was time to start the day! Mike wasn’t like minded. He knew it was time for me to close the window and hit Robin’s snooze button. Research showed a rapid tyeep and tut-tut-tut are also in the robin’s repertoire.

Comparison: The twelve syllable “tweedle” catchy chorus with pauses throughout was consistent with Robin’s song. Although “tweedle” wasn’t an authentic part of his song, it WAS close to tyeep. 

RRL: “He rocks in the treetops all day long.”

RO/R: From my kitchen window, I observed Robin settled on the gazebo roof peak doing a weather vane impression. Then he sung out. Of course, I saw Robin in trees as well, but this Robin preferred a stage closer to his nesting site. Research indicated that a high perch allowed his song to be carried far and wide to attract females. Literally, romance would be in the air. 

C: Robins were “in the treetops,” but he wasn’t there “all day long.” If he “rocks,” it was because the wind picked up.


RRL: “Hoppin’ and a boppin’ and a-singing his song.”

RO/R: While sipping my vodka tonic on the front porch, I observed my local Robin hopping. At one point I thought Robin bopped, but it turned out to be a lunge. He spotted a worm and caught dinner. Research showed Robins hopped when grass was too high for them to see over. Most of the time they walked to conserve energy. 

C: Robin hopped the majority of the time. However, Mike hadn’t cut the lawn lately, so that could’ve skewed the data. Robin “boppin’ while a-singing” was neither observed nor present in research.

RRL: “Every little swallow, every chick-a-dee, Every little bird in the tall oak tree, The wise old owl, the big black crow flappin’ their wings singing go bird go”

RO/R: I saw swallows gliding open-mouthed over the lake and circling high above the trees catching flying insects. Research showed chickadees were social and interacted with other species while owls and crows preyed upon Robins and their young. 

C: It must take swallows LOTS of open-mouthed gliding to catch dinner. Mosquitoes and gnats are teensy. I don’t think swallows have time for “flappin’ their wings” to encourage Robin’s shenanigans. The social chickadees on the other hand interacted with different bird species. I saw them as instigators cheering on Robin. Since owls and crows were Robin’s enemies, signs of either one and Robin would be prudent to stop “boppin’” and “go bird go.”


My “Rocking’ Robin’s” hummings and wonderings ceased when I heard demanding peeps coming from the nest. My pair of Turdus migratorius became parents. I don’t need scientific research to know that all rockin’, boppin’, and hoppin’ STOPPED until they raised their young resuming once they became empty nesters.

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