Will a Robin Use a Bird House?

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This cheery spring bird with a taste for worms is a welcome backyard guest. But will a robin nest in a bird house?

Shutterstock 101300527Shutterstock / Cindy Underwood
Busy robin building its nest

It’s such a joyful springtime sight: American robins hopping around in bright green grass, searching intently for worms and nesting material. Given the happiness these red-breasted birds bring, it’s no wonder birders want to attract them to stick around and raise their young. But will robins use a bird house? Is there even such thing as a robin bird house? Here’s what you should know.

Enjoy cheerful robin bird pictures to welcome spring.

Will Robins Use Bird Houses?

Nestling robin in a nestCOURTESY DIANE BASETTE
Baby robin in a nest

If you’ve put up bluebird houses, chickadee nest boxes or decorative bird houses in your yard, don’t expect a robin to move in. Unlike those birds, robins are not “cavity nesters,” meaning they don’t build nests in pre-existing holes in trees. As such, a bird house — which mimics that “hole-in-tree” environment — doesn’t appeal to them.

Birds & Blooms readers have reported seeing robins nesting on windowsills, ledges and even on woven baskets. Check out 9 proven tips to attract nesting birds.

We asked the experts—will a hummingbird use a bird house?

Robin Bird House Alternative

Robins care for their nestCourtesy Steven Osborne
Mom and dad robin built a nest on top of a flat basket

While robins won’t use a traditional bird house and a robin bird house isn’t a product you should buy, there are some birdhouse-like products available for them. Robins tend to build their nests on flat surfaces, and nesting shelves replicate that setting.

Nesting shelves are a lot like bird houses with the front panel removed. There’s a large gap so birds can fly directly into the house, as they would if they had nested on a natural flat surface. Many have a roof-like awning that hangs over the shelf, so the birds don’t get wet when it rains. After all, in the trees, birds are protected by leaves!

Psst—Do robins migrate and fly south in winter? Here’s how to attract robins to your yard year-round.

Where to Buy a Nesting Shelf for Robins

robin bird house nesting shelfVia Etsy.com
Robin nesting shelf

If you’re looking to purchase a nesting shelf, several options are available online (like this one from Etsy).

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You can always make your own DIY nesting shelf, too. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project NestWatch has plans available to make a shelf out of wood. Barn swallows and Eastern phoebes may also use these shelves for nesting. If you’re looking to take a craftier approach, here’s how to make a nesting shelf out of a bucket.

Next, discover the differences between American and European robins. Plus, do robins mate for life?

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Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in magazine writing from the University of Missouri - Columbia. When she’s not writing and editing, you’ll find her swimming, running, or hiking. She knows blue jays are controversial, but she loves them anyway.