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This migratory bird is called Turdus migratorius or American robin. The birds rush to eat berries early this winter due to the imminent migration from British Columbia, Canada to warmer California and Mexico. After they mate, lay eggs, and raise their young.

American robin feeds on caterpillars, mosquitoes, earthworms (40%) and berries (60%). One of their favorite berries is the invasive “berry” firethorn or Pyracantha, which is closely related to roses and apples from the family of Rosaceae. The fruit is winter hardy and ferments on the tree. The seed is poisonous to humans because it contain cyanide.

I have ever tried the firethorn berry. It has the varies taste from bold of tannins, a bit sour, and bitter when it fermented is like a medicine such quinine as antimalaria. Actually firethorn fruit is not berry but pome with some hard seeds usually with a pair of seed inside the fleshy tissue in the small fruit.

It is interesting watching the American robins eat their favorite alcoholic berries because if the robins eat too many fruits, they become drunk; walk and fly unsteadily but remain alert and excited. Give them the last provision of high nutritious food and alcohol doping before migrating thousands of kilometers to warmer areas.

In warm areas, this bird is a host or asymptomatic carrier of the West Nile virus, as well as Zika virus, dengue virus, and yellow fever virus. It has been proven that other larger birds such as the crow as well as the beautiful blue jay bird will die if they are infected by those viruses.

These viruses have also claimed many human fatalities, although not as many as coronavirus victims. It can be imagined that if these birds were hunted down and then extinct, the viruses would be more vicious to attack humans. After all, a flock of American robins can still fly free and far during this pandemic.

The photo is courtesy of Macaulay Library, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the photographer is Joshua Covill.

-Bintoro Gunadi