Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and...the American robin. This ubiquitous redbreast is one of North America’s most recognizable birds. Robins require open ground and short grass for hunting their food, and this type of environment is quite often found in the vicinity of humans, such as in backyards and parks.
The robin’s behavior of running across the grass and stopping suddenly, cocking its head to one side, is commonly misunderstood as the bird “listening” for worms under the ground. Instead, the bird is actually peering at the ground for telltale movements that indicate where its next meal may lie.
While the robin may seem to be a robust neighborhood mainstay, its life among humans may actually be doing the species harm: research shows that suburban robins may be showing signs of lead poisoning. One explanation is that lead-bearing compounds such as gasoline and paint have leached into the soil through the years, and the birds are ingesting these contaminants as they feed on worms. More research is required to determine the extent of this situation.