Are robins back, or did they ever leave?

Although the majority of robins have migrated back to Alberta from as far south as southern Mexico and Guatemala, some robins actually choose to overwinter in Alberta and the rest of Canada.  That’s because robins base their decision to migrate on whether or not there is enough food to sustain them over the winter, and not as much about the weather – no matter how harsh our winters can be.

In the spring and summer when the ground thaws, robins eat earthworms and insects.  In the fall they switch to eating berries from trees like mountain ash or chokecherries. If they choose to overwinter in Alberta they spend time travelling from place to place in search of more berries.

Male and female robins look very similar, with the main difference being that female robins are a lighter coloring than males. Females have a lighter grey head and a lighter red-orange breast.

Females are the nest builders which takes them anywhere from two to six days, and an average of about one hundred and eighty trips a day of bringing grass and mud to their nesting site to do so.

baby robins colleen 07Robins may lay two to three clutches—or sets of eggs—a year, starting in late April or early May. Both females and males feed and care for three to four nestlings once they hatch, and provide each one with thirty to forty 40 meals each a day.

Nestlings fledge their nest at approximately thirteen days old, where they are vulnerable to predators like blue jays, magpies and other birds, as well as squirrels, cats and dogs until they can fly.

Another thing that is fatal to robins (and all birds) once they are able to fly, is windows.  Two reasons robins fly into windows are:

  • they do not realize the glass is there and just see the reflection of a tree or branch they think they can land on,
  • they are being territorial and think that their reflection is another robin coming toward them.

In most cases, robins don’t sing until they have arrived on their breeding territory – it’s their way of saying “I’m home”.  So give them something to sing about by doing your part to keep them safe:

  • Keep your cats or dogs inside or closely monitored during nesting season (especially if you know there is a nest nearby).
  • Place decals, stickers, sun catchers, transparent film, netting or outdoor shutters on the outside of windows.  If building a new house or replacing windows, consider screens on the outside of the window as an option.

Do you have robins nesting in your garden already?

Some of the information gathered for this blog came from:
Canadian Wildlife Federation at cwf-fcf.org/en/discover-wildlife/flora-fauna/…/american-robin.html
Journey North at https://www.learner.org/jnorth/robin

18 responses to “Are robins back, or did they ever leave?”

  1. Tina Ryan says:

    I had robins coming to my garden all the time each day for nuts while I would be in my shed they would come in for me to feed them they love peanuts

  2. Bruce says:

    Noticed Robins in Lamoureux (Jan 3/18) since the cold snap “here” has ended.There seems to be a group of perhaps 6. I’m guessing these may be Robins that have wintered in the Greater Edmtn area and are just scavenging for berries and vegetation in the area…
    Makes it feel like spring with the 3C+ temps as of late especially with Robins about, and even with climate change evident, it is not spring yet!

  3. SEO Edmonton says:

    My area (Near West Ed mall) usually had the Robins showing up about four weeks earlier than they did this year.

  4. editor says:

    This has definitely been an odd spring, and a very long summer! Hopefully the nicer weather is here to stay 🙂 – Holly.

  5. R sadownick says:

    I live in willowpark in Calgary near the willow park golf course and have not seen one Robin this year. Usually have some nesting in my yard or feeding in the area. Have not seen any Robins.and very few other birds other than the large black ravens this year. What is happening to the bird population this year?

  6. R sadownick says:

    There are no Robins and few other birds other than ravins in the willow park area Calgary S E CAlgary THIS YEAR. What going on?

  7. editor says:

    Hello, if you can, we would recommend maybe posting on the Alberta Birds group on Facebook or reaching out to your community members to see if they are experiencing the same thing. There may not be enough food sources for robins and other birds in the area and they may have moved on elsewhere.

  8. Taylor says:

    We’ve had the fortune of having a robin choose the nook of our downspout as a nesting site. We have a security camera a few feet away, and we were able to angle it to have a look at the nest. So far, it’s appeared empty, and we haven’t noticed anyone moving to or from the nest. There was no one in the nest when we climbed the ladder to move the camera, and we’re hoping it hasn’t been abandoned. We were looking forward to monitoring the nest closely! Is it common for a robin to go to the effort of building a nest and not choose to use it?

  9. editor says:

    Hi Taylor,
    Thank you for getting in touch. It’s hard to say why they wouldn’t use the nest now. They may have been deterred from using it for some reason, or found a location that suited them better. Hard to say. Hopefully they are still doing well 🙂

  10. Elsie Bowman says:

    I have a least two nests on my rural property in the Valleyview area.

  11. editor says:

    That’s so great to hear! 🙂

  12. Jan Jensen says:

    We live northwest of Edmonton and have had way more robins on our farm this year than usual. This morning we had about 30 on our lawn. Amazing sight! Does anybody know why there would be so many?

  13. editor says:

    Hi Jan,
    It certainly does sound like an amazing site! It could be that this year is a good breeding year for robins and they are doing well in your area. Many species are grouping up and getting ready for migration now too, so it could also be that too. Hope this helps 🙂

  14. Missy says:

    I haven’t seen any robins in Indianapolis since July. I’m trying to find out if others have had the same experience.

  15. Debra says:

    We have a ton of Robins hanging out in our yard in Signal Ridge, SW Calgary… even with the snow grains and freezing temperatures.

  16. editor says:

    They are definitely on the move right now, though more and more are choosing to stay over winter. It will be interesting to see how this continues to grow as the years go on.

  17. Verena says:

    We have had hundreds of robins in the little forest behind our house since late Sept/18. They come to our back yard to look for food but with the snow we have it’s not very promising. Hope they go south soon!

  18. Verena says:

    Just left a message – forgot to say I’m in Red Deer AB where we have hundreds of robins even with the early winter weather.

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