I know it’s here when swarms of red‐breasted robins descend on my Virginia farm, rooting for every worm that survived winter.
No one gains much political traction writing about global warming’s threat to turkey buzzards, but robins are cute, so they’re more often the subject of climate change speculation.
Global warming is not pushing the robin to extinction. Au contraire: It’s expanding the robin’s range northward, into places where it’s never been seen. Robins are venturing so far north that they’ve even been sighted in the Inuit territory of northern Canada, where, Sen. John McCain tells us, there isn’t even a word for the birds.
Yes, even John McCain has feathered his political nest with the robin’s expansion. Back in 2004, after a hearing McCain organized as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin noted that he was particularly concerned about the rapid warming of the Arctic.
“The Inuit language for 10,000 years never had a word for ‘robin,’ ” McCain lamented, “and now there are robins all over their villages.” The BBC even titled a program on arctic warming “No Word for ‘Robin’: Climate Change in the Canadian Arctic.”
What a shame! Pretty little birds invading the Arctic, bringing joy with their whoop of spring!
But, of course, it’s not true. Like the tale of the endangered polar bears that happen to be at or near record population levels, the robin story is yet another climate confabulation. It ranks with the death of frogs in the mountains of Colombia now shown to be caused not by global warming, but by the introduction of fatal fungus on the shoes of concerned ecotourists.
It’s always instructive to consult the wisdom of our elders about climate change, and so I found an article, “The Naming of Birds by Nanamuit Eskimo,” by Laurence Irving of the U.S. Public Health Service in Anchorage, Alaska, in a 1953 edition of the refereed journal Arctic.
Irving describes his extensive visits with the people of Northern Alaska, residing in the Brooks Range — the most northerly mountain chain in the United States. He compared English names for birds with the Eskimo names of the ones they encountered.
Irving noted that the bird names were given by the Nanamuit elders. They were no birdie‐come‐latelys.