editor’s note: at the Blue River Gathering of Pacific Northwest nature writers last weekend, held at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, we invited the writers to share thoughts on what humans might learn from other-than-human animals. Here’s our first post in the series:

Ten Lessons for Climate Activists from the American Robin  by Pepper Trail

1. It’s good to be common

The American Robin is one of the most common and widely distributed native birds in North America. This large population gives robins great resilience in the face of ecological and climatic challenges.

        Build the movement!

2. Adapt to where you are

Robins are found from steamy southern swamps to the Alaskan tundra. Their remarkable ability to adapt to local conditions and resources is the secret of their success.

        Tailor your message and manner to local conditions

3. And also have one special skill

For all their adaptability, robins also have a specialized skill: their earthworm-hunting behavior, which opens up a rich resource few other birds exploit.

        Know your special talent and make the most of it

4. Figure out how to take advantage of the dominant paradigm

Robins thrive in part because of their ability to make the most of human environments, nesting in our backyards and foraging on our lawns.

        Don’t be afraid to make alliances and to engage with mass media

5. Be alert for phonies

Robins are among the few birds able to detect and toss out the eggs of the parasitical Brown-headed Cowbird, thus protecting their nests from invaders.

        Welcome only those who truly share your values

6. Know when to move on

Throughout their wide range, robins exhibit facultative migration – that is, they adjust their winter residency to conditions. In a cold winter, they head south; if the next year is mild, they may remain resident all year.

        Know when to stage a tactical retreat, in order to win another time

7. Produce lots of young

Robins often produce two broods of offspring per year. That gives them a huge advantage compared to less fecund species.

        There’s no substitute for the energy and idealism of the young when building a movement.

8. Be confident

Robins are often described as “bold,” “confident,” and “confiding,” in contrast to related birds like the shy Varied Thrush. There is no doubt that the outgoing behavior of robins has contributed greatly to their success.

        Believe in your cause whole-heartedly, and others will too.

9. Be friendly

In addition to their boldness, robins appeal to us because they’re friendly – even if they’re keeping us company in the garden in order to snatch up earthworms!

        A friendly, positive approach will gain many more listeners than one wrapped in doom and gloom.

10. Sing!

The song of robins is beautiful. And isn’t a beautiful message what we all want to hear?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One thought on “Ten Lessons for Climate Activists from the American Robin

  1. These Ten Lessons are terrific, very applicable and thought-provoking. Each one’s piece of advice reminds me of “Advice from…” by Ilan Shamir (Your True Nature), whose advice pieces I’m collecting as they relate to the national parks I visit. Kudos to Pepper! Look forward to reading the next Northwest nature writers’ blogs as they appear. Thanks, Charles, for sharing.

Comments are closed.