What Do Robins Eat? How to Attract Robins

Find out what robins eat in all seasons. Learn how attract robins with their favorite foods and if you can bring them to feeders.

What Do Robins Eat?

American robins are commonly spotted (and heard) in backyards throughout most of North America. Watch for robins in your yard, no matter what the weather is like. Find out what foods robins eat and how to attract these birds throughout the year.

Enjoy 15 cheerful robin bird pictures to welcome spring.

Do Robins Eat Bird Seed?

signs of spring, robinCourtesy C. Denise Maples
Robin eating worms

Robins are not seed eaters, so you won’t attract them with seed bird feeders. Instead, look for them on the ground. Every child knows that robins eat worms. But they also eat lots of other things, too like insects, grubs, and even snails. We tend to notice them around our gardens because they hunt for these things on the ground.

The next time you observe an American robin in your yard, notice how they curiously tilt their heads. They do this to listen for juicy worms. Robins use both visual and auditory clues to hunt down their favorite slimy snack.

Robins also eat fruit, which they search for in trees and shrubs—not where we’re used to seeing them. When winter comes, the worms and insects aren’t as available to them, so during the cold months their diet consists mostly of fruit.

What’s the difference: European robin vs American robin.

How to Feed and Attract Robins in Winter

robinCourtesy Fred Harwood
Attract robins with berry bushes.

As the ground thaws and worms break through the surface, robins, members of the thrush family, become more active and visible again. But you can attract robins to your yard even when it’s snowing. In winter, flocks of robins gobble up berries from shrubs and trees. You can attract robins to your yard with trees that bear fruit in winter such as chokecherry, hawthorn and dogwood.

You can also create small piles of leaf litter around your yard to attract robins. According to the National Wildlife Federation, “Leaf litter is a natural habitat for many insects and gives grub and insect-eating birds such as robins, towhees and thrashers, hours of quality snack time.”

Will robins use a bird house?

How to Attract Robins to Feeders

what do robins eatCourtesy Jane High
American robins and cedar waxwings on a bird bath in winter

Question: A flock of robins stayed with us last winter and ate all the berries growing in our area. How can we attract them to feeders? —Susan Petrch of Millbrook, Ontario

Kenn and Kimberly: Robins aren’t typical feeder guests, but there are some things you can try. It’s best to place an open tray feeder near one of the berry-producing trees frequented by the robins and stock it with raisins, apple slices or other fruit. You can also offer mealworms or suet. But it’s normal for flocks of robins to be nomadic in winter, wandering long distances and stopping when they find a natural food source. Once they’ve depleted the local berry supply, most likely they’ll be off in search of the next berry crop instead of sticking around at feeders.

Robins also visit bird baths for fresh water. You can offer a heated bird bath in the winter to bring these birds to your yard.

Next, learn all about robin nests and eggs.

Sheryl DeVore
Sheryl DeVore is a science, nature, health and social issues writer, editor, educator and wild birds expert. She has been watching birds, plants, insects and other natural wonders as well as writing stories about education, social issues, art, music and nature for more than 25 years. With an education, science, and journalism background, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and inspiration from nature.