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Number of species: 79

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American Robin - Turdus migratorius

American Robin has a partial preformative molt but no prealternate molts. Although a common species, American Robin can be challenging to age and sex due to a high degree of individual variability.  Although extremes are readily identifiable, many individuals are not reliably sexed by plumage, and by spring ageing can also become particularly challenging and should be done only if key characteristics are distinct and consistent.

Quick tips

  • Look at the greater coverts - on FCF (HY/SY) birds, some to most of the innermost ones are generally longer, while the remainder are retained juvenile feathers and often show buffy-white shaft streaks, although these may be less evident by spring; the absence of such streaks should therefore not be used as evidence of DCB (AHY/ASY), and beware also the potential for pseudolimits among the greater coverts in older birds.
  • Examine the tail - FCF (HY/SY) birds typically have dull and relatively narrow rectrices, while DCB (AHY/ASY) birds have darker and broader rectrices; note that the extent of white on the outer rectrices does not seem to be a reliable predictor of age or sex.
  • Consider the breast - it is mostly to entirely dark orange on DCB (AHY/ASY) males, orange with variable amounts of gray mottling on FCF (HY/SY) males and DCB (AHY/ASY) females, and pale orange with moderate to considerable gray mottling on FCF (HY/SY) females; note also that FCJ/FCF (HY) birds of either sex may retain dark breast spots well into fall.
  • Look at the crown - it is largely to completely blackish on DCB (AHY/ASY) males, ranging from dark brown to mostly blackish on most FCF (HY/SY) males, largely dark brown and occasionally with some blackish on DCB (AHY/ASY) females, and generally moderate to dark brown and lacking any black on FCF (HY/SY) females.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2016). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: May - September)
Upperparts spotted; underparts with moderate to heavy dark mottling
U
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FCF - (HY/SY: July - following September)
Rectrices relatively dull brown and narrow; outer greater coverts shorter than inner coverts and sometimes with buffy-white shaft streaks; breast often with some gray mottling, especially on females; crown generally brown (F) to mottled dark brown to blackish (M)
M
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F
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DCB - (AHY/ASY: July - following September)
Rectrices relatively dark and broad; greater coverts uniform in length and freshness; breast mostly orange with some gray (F) or solid dark orange (M); crown generally mottled dark brown and blackish (F) to solidly blackish (M)
M
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F
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Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: May - September)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: July - October)
Similar to FCF; most to all median coverts and up to most greater coverts being replaced; sometimes also one or two tertials
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brownish and worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (relatively dark and not overly worn) or intermediate
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U July - October Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY January - December In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 79

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