Do Robins Migrate and Return in the Spring?

Do robins migrate south for the winter and come back in spring? Find out where to look for robins and what foods robins like to eat year-round.

Do robins migrate?Courtesy Deb Bordner
An American robin perches in a snowy tree in early March

Do Robins Migrate?

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about spring, most of them along the line of will it ever get here? Many people have noted that one of their biggest signs that spring really is coming is that the robins have returned. Do robins migrate? The short answer is no. Actually, the robins never really left. They just change their behavior in the winter so we don’t notice them as much. Robins are year-round residents of the lower 48 states.

What Do Robins Eat?

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. But robins also eat fruit, which they search for in trees and shrubs, which is 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.

You may not be seeing them in your garden, so you think they’ve gone away. During the winter months robins gather together into huge flocks, sometimes numbering hundreds or even thousands of birds.

And they fly around in these flocks in search of fruit. When they find it, the whole flock will descend and strip every berry from the trees and shrubs that they find, often in a single afternoon.

So, if you want to see robins in winter, plan now to add fruiting native shrubs and trees to your wildlife garden now. So by next winter you’ll have something to offer these fun and friendly birds.

Good choices include: American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Cranberry Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum), and Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Ask at your local native plant nursery which berry shrubs will work best for the conditions in your garden.

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