Do American Robins Mate For Life?

Updated: Apr. 29, 2022

Lifelong love, or just soulmates for a season? Here's all you need to know about whether American robins mate for life.

Do Robins Mate For Life?

do robins mate for lifeCourtesy Dwayne Proffitt
Robin moms and dads both help raise their young.

Given the sweet stories of swans, cranes, crows and other birds that form lifelong bonds, you might wonder: Do American robins mate for life?

Unfortunately, robin love stories are a little shorter. Like other backyard songbirds, they are often monogamous once they’ve paired up in spring… but they go their separate ways once the family-raising season comes to a close. Thus, robin “relationships” tend to last only a few months out of the year. They’re certainly not paired for life!

Journey North notes that two robins that have been a mated pair before could end up back on the same breeding grounds in spring and thus pair up again. This scenario becomes more likely if they successfully raised young the year before. But in the traditional sense, robins do not remain monogamous.

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Unlike hummingbird males, the male robins are good bird dads. They play an active role in both nest-construction and brood-raising. He’ll bring his partner nesting materials to help her build their cup-style nest. He also sings loudly to defend their territory and all the important resources it provides. After the eggs hatch, he sticks around to help her feed the fledglings, and the mated pair may raise three or more broods together in a single season.

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How Do Robins Choose Mates?

254040724 1 Brian Fox Bypc2020, american robin pictureCourtesy Brian Fox
Male robins with the best songs and plumage attract attention from females.

You might be surprised to learn that much of the decision-making in mating comes down to the female robin, rather than the male. Males arrive earlier to the breeding grounds than females, and they spend that extra time claiming and battling for territory. The oldest and strongest robins tend to wind up with the best nesting sites. When they arrive a few weeks later, females select mates based on who has the most eye-catching plumage and the best song.

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How Long Do Robins Live?

do robins mate for lifeCourtesy Douglas Beall
American robins 

Unfortunately, these delightful red-breasted birds aren’t long-lived. According to Journey North, most American robins live 5 or 6 years in the wild. But don’t worry, as the total population of American robins has been estimated at 300 million. These adaptable birds are commonly seen in cities, parks, farms and forests across Canada, Alaska and the Lower 48 states. Did you know it’s a myth that robins fly south and return in the spring? Find out what robins eat and learn how to attract them year-round.