It’s always a good sign when we see Robins hopping around on the ground after the long winter months. Occasionally we’ll see a robin, that most people assume is crazy, camped out on a snowy branch, but we may not see many during the winter. Why is that?
The first answer is simply because we don’t know where to look! During the winter, we may not see robins because we are accustomed to looking at the ground for them to be hopping around, however during the winter they may just be in trees and bushes that still have berries on them. Birders that participate in the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count often spot robins, just at a smaller number than they do when they count again in the spring. If the weather permits, the robins won’t migrate too far as many bushes and small trees in their area have berries that they can eat from.
These berries don’t have to be things like strawberries, raspberries and other berries that you typically think of. They can be things like Holly or the berries of the Eastern Red Cedar tree that keeps its berries into the winter. If you’re looking to create a habitat that welcomes robins and provides a place for them to feed, planting American Holly, the Eastern Red Cedar tree, and Winterberry bushes are great plants to start with.
The second answer is that some robins may choose to migrate. Even if they do, they don’t necessarily go down south to stay warm. Robins rely on worms and insects as food during the warmer seasons, but when the ground freezes, that food source disappears. These birds then rely on berries as their main food source. If they do end up flying south for the winter with a flock, it’s not in the typical fashion that other species of birds do. Unlike many others, robins don’t migrate to a specific place or use a specific path. They simply go where they know that their food will be. They have even been known to wait out the snowy weather using the fat reserves that they have built up throughout the year.
Even though this may sound like Robins really aren’t the symbol of spring, you can rest assured that they still are. Once they start hopping around on the ground, cocking their heads to the side before pecking at the dirt, you can tell that the ground has thawed enough for the worms to return, allowing the robins to return to that source.
Not only will their eating behavior change back in the spring, but the males will also start to sing when the warmer months come back! This change in the season signals that it is time to breed again, so many beautiful robin songs can be heard.
Want to learn more about the Robins that may be hopping around your backyard? Check out these cool resources.