Birds in the Garden

Robins in the Winter

Robin at Pond

I was delighted to see a robin stopping by for a drink at our pond this morning. Are you wondering why he hadn’t flown off to warmer accommodations? Why he remained to combat wet snow, bitter winds and freezing temperatures?

Most robins are migratory, but not all of them. Unlike hummingbirds that follow the same migratory routes year after year, robins follow food sources. The availability of food, not cold temperatures, is the impetus for their migration. When snow and frozen soil make earthworms inaccessible, fruit is their fare. If there is an abundance of fruit in your landscape, some robins may just stick around.

Robins feast on juniper berries.
Robins feast on juniper berries.

Robins do not eat birdseed. They prefer to eat berries right from the branches of trees and shrubs. Crabapples, junipers, serviceberries and viburnums are preferred. Robins might eat fruit we provide – apples, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are favorites.

Offer a source of water too and make robins an offer even harder to refuse. Water is not only important for robins to drink, it is essential for keeping them warm. Clean feathers keep birds much warmer than dirty feathers. Even in winter, robins must bathe.

Robin in Smokebush

Males are more likely than females to remain in an area. One possible reason: females must be well nourished to have enough energy to lay eggs in spring. They can’t afford to stay and take a chance of food shortages.

The robins we do see may be year-round residents, but they might also be Canadian citizens that started south for the winter and thought our area seemed hospitable enough to stay.

If you want to entice robins to stay in your backyard next winter, plant more of their berry-producing favorites this spring. Garden with me!


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