Meteorologist Ray Petelin is back with another home science lesson!By Ray Petelin

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Late in winter, people usually start looking for signs that spring is on the way.

The most popular is Punxsutawney Phil.

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The groundhog isn’t the only animal though.

Many people look to the robin’s arrival to signal spring in the area.

Are robins really a sign, though?

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

To find this out, we talked with Bob Mulvihill, and Ornithologist at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. He says it’s not a so “cut and dry.”

“They are and they aren’t” Mulvihill said. “I am sorry I can’t give you a yes-no on that. There is a classic study and robins were the model species that was used, and early ornithologists noted that robins tended to show up at northern latitudes when the average temperature was about 36º Fahrenheit, so in that sense it sounds like they might be a pretty good indicator of spring arriving.”

There are reasons though, that some of the robins you see might not be the best signal of spring weather.

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Mulvihill says, “The complication comes from the fact that, nowadays, robins winter in northern latitudes to a far greater degree than they did historically, so when you see a robin, the question then becomes is that a robin that is responding to this temperature increase or is it one that has been around all winter long that you didn’t notice?”

So, some of the robins we see are on “vacation” or wintering here from somewhere else. Mulvihill says that the robins that come to Pittsburgh for the winter may have originated in Newfoundland or Northern Ontario.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

This region has many types of birds, and many varieties that migrate to and from our area, so are there better birds to use to indicate spring weather? Mulvihill said, “I have been giving this some thought. I think everybody tends to have their own kind of sign of spring, and it’s not always a bird, but birds are good. 6:05 I think what I realized, more than it being a bird that is not here then here, so not necessarily returning migrant, but for me personally, the sign of spring is that when the birds that are here begin acting like it is spring.

One thing you may have noticed lately is that the cardinals have been becoming more vocal. “I went outside to take the recycling out to the front curb this morning, it’s about 11 or 12 degrees outside. It’s mighty cold, but the sun was shining, and the northern cardinal was singing. The cardinal says it’s spring with his behavior. He’s singing to establish territory and attract a mate. He’s already busy with that.

(Photo Credit: Hays Bald Eagle Camera)

Our Hays bald eagles think it’s Spring. They laid an egg on February 13th,, so every bird has its own way of connecting to the coming season, but they all show a complete faith that the season is coming”, Mulvihill told us.

He says it is because they are very sensitive to the overall day length, and the increasing angle of the Sun’s light. With that, the birds react in stages with spring on the way.

Mulvihill tells us, “The very earliest ones, we’re starting to see signs. The bald eagles laying eggs, the cardinals singing. Then there are going to be a little more activity with the thaw , as we start to get a genuine thaw. Then the birds that have gone all the way to Central and South America for the winter, they’re going to be some of the last wave of spring bird evidence, and they’re going to come in from the end of April until early May”.

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Rather than look for a bird, we should look for how the birds are acting. It seems like actions speak louder than birds. I am not sorry for the “dad joke”.