Fishing American Robin aka Holy Crap!

One of my favorite parts about this blog is that people email me questions about birds or photos to try and identify something. Every now and then, someone sends in some insanely interesting bird behavior and it knocks my socks off. pond.jpg

I got an email from JJ Golden who was out taking photos of ducks not too far from where I live. There are still a few patches of open water and JJ was at a Twit Cities Golf course when something strange happened. Golden reports, "As I walked around the pond I saw this Robin so I stopped and watched it for a moment. It flew down to the pond, I assumed to get a drink by a small open/slushy spot. At this point I tripped over my own snowshoes, dropped down to my knees and dropped my point and shoot camera (with lens uncovered) into the snow. I was only a few feet from the Robin who paid no attention to my blundering self."

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Golden goes on to report, "As I got up I could see the Robin had pulled a small fish out of the water and dropped it on the ice. It flip flopped around for a minute or so as the Robin seemed to be studying how to get it down. It then ate the fish in what looked like one gulp. The open area was very slushy so I'm amazed that the Robin could see a tiny fish from as far away as it was. The fish had a slightly pinkish tinge which made me wonder if it looked like a worm to the Robin."

I know robins will go for some not traditional foods in winter--some will eat seeds out of the shell like sunflower hearts or even go for suet. When I worked at the wild bird store in Wayzata, MN we had a bait shop in our strip mall. They would always toss out dead bait behind the store and we would see flocks of winter robins flying down for tiny dead fish but this is the first time that I have seen someone document an American Robin (Turdus migratorious) actively fishing for food!

So, now I wonder if this is a robin that has grabbed bait fish and somehow put two and two together and figured out how to get slow moving fish from slushy water? Did the robin figure it out by seeing a resemblance between the fish and a worm that it would normally go for?

Has anyone else ever seen a robin active fish for food?