Why Are Robins Still Here in Winter?

Robin-on-Stump

I know I asked myself that question when we got early snow. I was at a park and saw about 100 robins sitting in trees with a foot of snow below. I was thinking that I wish I had some fruit to give them. Not having my camera, I went back the next day and only one robin remained. Granted, it really was snowing like the dickens, but where did they go?

As the weeks passed, the robins became fewer and fewer over the area, but some persisted through the worst ice and snow. It got me to wonder how they fared.

Robin-Berries-1

As you probably know, robins eat things like grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and what every kid knows, earthworms. What kid has not watched them tug and stretch a worm until it is freed from the earth? They bounce along in the grass, stopping abruptly with head tilted waiting to yank a worm from below. I read where one robin will eat 14 feet of worms a day.

Robin-Berry-Tree

Robins love gardeners too. They love us tilling, digging, and especially sprinkling the lawn, making their job easier.

Robin-Falls-2

Did you know that our American Robin is not the same species as the European Robin? Our Red-Breast is a thrush and theirs a flycatcher. They just look similar to each other with the blazon breast. Don’t tell the American Robin, but their robin is cuter.

Robin-in-Snow-2

Now that we got robin trivia out-of-the-way, so why the heck are they hanging around in winter? Well, because some of them just do. It all depends on the available food source and when it dries up, they move on.

Robin-Falls

The reason most people don’t see them is because they are no longer flitting across the lawn, but have moved to the trees of moist forests. That is where the berries and fruit are found. So I found them about two and a half weeks later, maybe about 50 of them in the woods at Niagara Falls.

Robin-Berries

And with berries and fruit, comes some mighty intoxicated robins. If the fruit falls and ferments they still will eat it. There is a Mulberry tree behind my garage that makes many a creature wobbly on their feet. Squirrels have even fallen from this tree.

2-Robins-Berries

From the Cornell site, I read that robin roosts can be up to a quarter of a million birds in winter. That must be an amazing sight.

Robin-Berry-Tree-2

At the park today, I checked all the areas in the woods that I found robins earlier when snow was on the ground. Not one was to be found. But what I did notice was cardinals were in the same trees taking the same berries. Nothing in nature is wasted!

Cardinal-in-Berry-Tree

The barely noticeable female cardinal hiding in amongst the berries.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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68 Responses to Why Are Robins Still Here in Winter?

  1. I’ve never really looked for robins in the winter, but I’m sure they’re there! I still get giddy excited when I see the “first robin” in the early spring! Can’t wait!

    • I like seeing them in Spring too. I feel sorry for them in winter even tough I know they are fine.

    • sheri says:

      I live in Niagara falls Ontario The past couple weeks including the coldest days jan 6-7- I have more than 2 dozen Robins hanging around my yard, they are drawn to my sub pump water that is going out to centre of my back yard. They are all huddling in a sun filled corner of garage Sorry I can not get photo the fly away as soon as I open door.

  2. Yes, the robins have always stayed year round here at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. They are the worst “predators” for my winterberry and hawthorn, swooping in and cleaning the plants of berries in an afternoon. Happy New Year.

  3. igardendaily says:

    Nice post! I like learning a bit more about robins and my favorite photos are the ones of the berry in mouth!

  4. alesiablogs says:

    I have had a ton of robins lately around. I guess I stay giddy! lol.

  5. Must be why I see them as well that forest behind my barn
    Nice post!

  6. bittster says:

    Great pictures of robins and snow, it’s such a totally different look from what you normally see! I always see dozens flitting between ivy and holly thickets at my brother’s house, eating the berries of both all winter.

    • I rarely saw robins (in a flock anyway) in the snow before this year. Usually they head further South.Today in 1°F I saw a small flock. Next post is on the birds that were out in 1°F at the Falls. So many too.

  7. erupprecht says:

    So funny that you should happen to post this piece on why robins hang around in the winter. Just a few days ago my wife and I were walking in the woods near our home (in New Jersey) and she remarked how many robins there were. It was cold and icy — certainly not conditions that you associate with robins. We pondered the issue but didn’t really explore it further . . . until your wonderful explanation (and even more wonderful photos). Thanks for clearing up this little mystery.

  8. I have heard that robins may stay through the winter but have not seen that here. The thought of 14 feet of worms is very impressive. Are those hawthorne berries?

    • I was shocked when I read that, but when you consider a worm at 6-8 inches long and birds eat all day long, I guess it seems feasible. They are crabapple trees, but some Hawthorn is in the park.

  9. I haven’t seen robins for a while, but we’ve been having extreme temperatures and windchills lately. I still see an occasional cardinal, chickadee, or goldfinch. But the juncos are plentiful, active, and make an appearance every day–even on the coldest days! Truly incredible little birds!

  10. Oh, I adore robins. I don’t see them here until about this time and into the spring before it gets too hot. Then I don’t see them again until about this time again. I’ve had them build nests on one of my rose arches for several years now. I love the European robins too. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

  11. janechese says:

    Great photos with the robins and the berries. Maybe that is why they stay- to get drunk!that will happen with the bohemian waxwings eating the fruit of the mountain ash trees .

  12. Julie says:

    I did not realise there was an American Robin, the British Robin is smaller and rounder and behaves quite differently. Although they look very cute they aggressively defend their patch, the red breast is a territorial warning, even on my feeders they do not share and see off any other bird feeding, so we do not see flocks as you do. But when I garden there is often a robin following me around, singing and sitting on a spade or fork handle.

  13. franzisofie says:

    They have a great colour! It’s amazing that they get through this cold winter. Great photos!

  14. Annette says:

    You know, I thought of a thrush straight away when I saw your sturdy, handsome chap! So interesting to see an American robin. When I travelled in South Africa I was amazed to find how many robins they have. I f you love birdwatching you have to go there – best place in the world!

  15. Do most of the robins go to warmer areas during the winter?

  16. Probably daft to make comparisons between birds when they are of different species but – our robins have one of the best songs of all our birds. Are your thrush-type ones good singers too?

  17. They look so beautiful amongst the berries… Some of these photos remind me of old Japanese prints [which I adore!] Happy Friday, Donna. xx

  18. Those berries are a buffet for the birds. We see a few robins still. They like our evergreens.

  19. Nice photography! We have the robins until about this time of year when it starts to get really cold. Today we had 11 degrees with wind chills below zero and I didn’t see any robins today! ‘-)

    • It was colder this morning when I went out to the Park. It was 1°F and wind chill -14°. I saw a small flock of robins, maybe about eight of them in the trees. I really did not look in the woods where they have been residing, but am guessing they are still around. I got shooed away from taking photos of them from my truck because where they are located, is too far to walk in this weather. It was biting cold today. I have a post on today’s shoot coming up Saturday morning. I may put photo in of the robin, but I was not very close to them since I was not allowed to leave the truck.

  20. Patty says:

    My robins are gone, although I did see a white throated sparrow yesterday and today.

  21. Jennifer says:

    I love the images of the robins and the red berries. I was out taking a few pictures after our recent ice storm and was shocked to see a few robins in a berry-filled tree (black berries of some kind in this case). I have never seen robins in winter before. Of course my camera battery died at the exact moment I spotted them! It is super cold here at the moment and I wonder how they must be fairing. Have a great weekend Donna!

  22. mariekeates says:

    Our English robins are fat little fellows but they do stick around more or less all year. We have one who visits the garden most days, although today it’s raining and blowing a gale so I doubt I’ll see him.

  23. mazza18467 says:

    The first I saw was so many robins , and I was amazed because as far as I know are robins very aggressive towards eachother. So we have never more then one. : Erithacus rubecula
    in my site : http://mazza18467.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/roodborst/ and
    http://mazza18467.wordpress.com/category/uncategorized/
    Your’s is what we call Roodborstlijster. in Latin :Turdus migratorius. This one does not exist in our country ( exept in captivity) . It is amazing how the same names can cause confusion. In Dutch and English it is even worse, Dutch koolmees ( one would think kohltit) is in English a black tit and a kohltit is what we Dutch call een Zwarte mees ( black Tit) .
    Beautifull bird by the way. nice pic’s
    Let me use the opportunity to wish you a very happy new year.

  24. gardengirl92 says:

    Hi! I liked learning more about the robins. Birds are amazingly durable little creatures. I have never seen any during the winter here, but, like you, my berry and fruit trees are picked clean in fall. As always, your pictures are beautiful. Can’t wait to see what you found by the falls.

    • The trees at the Falls in these photos are pretty much cleaned off today – 4 January. Robins are so common, many are not interested in them. I think now that I started bird watching, that I have a better appreciation for the common birds.

  25. lulu says:

    Robins must be everywhere. They are here (Houston) and at my place in Maine so they must have very adaptable survival skills. BTW, great photo.

  26. Denise says:

    You can tell the American Robins that they are beautiful. Different from ours but very beautiful.

  27. A couple of years ago I saw robins in winter and learned that indeed many hang about in winter and gather where the food is plentiful. I would also love to see these masses of birds. WE had them still in the garden this winter so I wonder where they are hanging out.

    • Lucky you. All my berry shrubs have been picked clean since Fall. The crabapples eaten as soon as they ripened. I found the robins again today and in a most surprising place, one I am sure others haven’t seen. I was not even sure I was seeing robins. I will have a post on them late in the week.

  28. A.M.B. says:

    I love robins, particularly when there’s a tree full of them on a snowy day. Great pictures!

  29. GORGEOUS photos, Donna, but yours always are. One of the birds pictured could be my parent (because I’m a robinSON).

  30. I agree the English robin is cuter, but I am probably prejudiced. P. x

  31. Anne Hastings says:

    Traveling this afternoon on the NJ Parkway from the Atlantic City Expressway, South toward Cape May, I couldn’t help notice the extraordinary number of dead robins on the road. Once I realized there were so many dotting the southbound lanes, I estimate I saw 35 to 40 of them. I’m wondering why they haven’t migrated and why so many dead birds.

  32. Ree says:

    Wonderful pictures!
    Funny, I saw a robin a few days ago near my house after we got hit by the polar vortex at the start of the year. I thought it was a sign that we would start seeing warmer weather soon. Guess the bird gave me false hope..because we had yet another cold blast this week. Though, I hope that robin survived the frightful weather.
    Can’t wait for spring to hear these birds chirping non-stop outside my window.

  33. Caz says:

    A flock of robins has been here all valentines day weekend in the hills of central New York, in the apple trees and berry bushes. Is that a sign of early spring or had they never left?

    • Could be either, but my guess is they never left. We have had robins all winter here and they have been feeding on buckthorn, holly, hawthorn, and crabapple. I am sure many other plants too, but at the park, those plants are abundant. I showed them in a couple of posts this winter, the last post Jan 17, https://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2014/01/17/wading-robins/. I also talk about conservation landscaping and it importance in a series starting with https://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2014/02/03/white-throated-sparrow-hop-hop-hopping-along-for-conservation-landscaping/. That post show a native sparrow we see infrequently in winter but I explain the conditions as to why it is still here. Robins are often in flocks in winter. It is easier for a flock to find food than it is for a single bird. I have a post coming up on the American Goldfinch that talks about flock behavior. Those tiny birds come to my garden in a small flock. That post is about the winter coloration of the Goldfinch, but hanging out in flocks keeps it safer from predators too. Many eyes in the sky for warning.

  34. Caz says:

    Wow! The photos of the robins bathing in the Niagara are beautiful! I’m so glad to have run across your site. The flock here is of about ten, looking plump and happy. I’d never seen them midwinter before. Right now robins, cardinals and red squirrels are in the apple trees. Until two weeks ago this tree out front had held most of its fruit, and then one day a variety of wildlife descended and spent the day eating want was obviously fermented apples- tipsy squirrels, raccoons, deer, and birds including turkey.

    I appreciate conservation landscaping. I have 20 acres, mostly left natural and many perennial and self seeding flowers allowed to seed. I see chickadees feeding from the bee balm and cornflower heads.

    A large area of milkweed and nectar flowers also attracts monarch butterflies.

  35. Darlene says:

    I have seen flocks of robins wintering in the metro Detroit area. Walking to work I was stunned to see dozens hanging out on the sidewalk, in trees. Never saw anything like it. While at my friends who lives 50 minutes away there was a tree full of them there too. Today I went to the local metropark on Lake Erie and again there were dozens in the shrub. I have seen the occasional robin in winter but nothing like this, Found this site while surfing the web looking if anyone else has come across them.

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