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…/american-robin.html
Journey North at

44 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.

  19. Lynn says:

    January 31: Robin in chokecherry bush at the base on the stairs, just north of Princes’s Island!

  20. editor says:

    It seems like more and more are staying over winter. Thanks for sharing!

  21. eliades pastor says:

    no sign of the big flocks coming through yet. last year it was March 24 in Signal Hill.

  22. Lynne Wright says:

    We have about 10 robins in our yard seem to be loving the mountain ash tree. Never happened before. Any idea why there are so many this year?

  23. editor says:

    Hi Lynne,

    All species go through periods where their population spikes or drops, so hopefully this means it’s a great year for robins that you have so many visiting 🙂

  24. Kat says:

    We have a lovely robin nest just outside our deck door at our rental home in Calgary. 3 little blue eggs. Truly amazing how fast the nest showed up and how much of it was already completed by the time I noticed it. Mom flys away every time the kids run out the door but soon returns to protect her eggs. Sure hope they hatch before we permanently return to Edmonton before the end of June!

  25. lydia jane goatcher says:

    Jan 24,2020 at 11:30 am
    small group of Robins seen at HermItage Park Edmonton. There is a bird feeding area here where peanuts and suet and seeds are available.

  26. editor says:

    That’s great you were able to spot them. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Linda Grienke says:

    Had a robin in our back yard in Transcona today, Jan30/2020.

  28. editor says:

    That’s great to hear! 🙂

  29. I am a retired daycare teacher in Ontario Canada.
    I am anxiously waiting for Robins to arrive so the little 2 year old girl i looks after can create a love of birds as well. Has ayone seen them yet. FEBRUARY 3 2020

  30. editor says:

    Hi Theresa,
    Unfortunately we don’t have any news of if robins are back in your area yet, but check out ebird as they may have some info 🙂

  31. Darcy says:

    We have over 50 Robins today in our yard here in Tuscany in NW Calgary. Last week or so the crowd is getting larger.

  32. editor says:

    Very cool, thank you for sharing!

  33. Wendy says:

    Apr 5/2020. I’m in Tuscany & I’ve never had Robins in my tree. For 2 days I’ve had 4 robins in my tree!!! Today I hung a dish of apple pieces & cheese for them. I hope they get it before the magpies & crows do!! Any advice is appreciated . Is there anything I could be doing for them? I’ve only ever put out sunflower seeds before (regularly)

  34. editor says:

    Hi Wendy, that’s great news! They are most likely migrants recently returned, and they may stay around or they could be passing through. They don’t eat bird seed from feeders, typically. They forage more on the ground for natural foods. We would recommend letting them forage for their natural foods.

  35. Caroline Wrightson says:

    It’s Easter Sunday .. I’m in Winnpeg Manitoba .. I woke to hear, what sounded like 100’s, of robins singing in the trees. Last year, I may have seen 1 or 2 robins all summer. Considering what we are all living with right now (Covid-19) it was wonderful to know these birds sound to be happier than ever. Stay safe and well to everyone. Virtual hugs going out.

  36. editor says:

    What an experience, thank you for sharing! Thank you for your support, we hope you are well and safe. Take care!

  37. Shelley says:

    Hello, April 18/20 – I am in SE Calgary (Cranston) I’ve have had many robins passing through. I have one robin I believe to be male continually coming back to a tree on the side of my house and singing away. Does this mean he has found a spot for himself and mate ? Also, are the females back in Calgary now? I have not seen a female with him.
    For the past two years robins have nested nearby. Last year I was surprised to see 3 nestlings on the side of my fence (have no clue where the nest was). Witnessed them grow , learn to hunt and fly off. The year before I witnessed the robins building the nest and caring for their young , teaching them to hunt for worms as well as the nestlings departing with the parents when they were able to fly

  38. editor says:

    Hi Shelley, thank you for sharing this. Great to hear robins are returning in high numbers. We are not aware if female robins have returned, but this is a great site to check recent sightings and to add your own:

  39. Fiona says:

    We have a Robin nesting under the deck in our front yard. She’s chosen a site immediately next to our patio doors and seems unconcerned by my husband working from home immediately next to her!
    Yesterday she was lining the nest with leaves, wiggling her bottom and gently flapping her wings to squish them into position.
    She started building the nest on Sunday.
    We have a bird bath nearby which she bathes in almost daily.

    We have not had a Robin nesting in our garden before and she’s fascinating to watch.
    No signs of a male Robin with her, so far.
    We have no trees in our yard as we lost them all during a September storm so we are delighted to have any birds in our garden.

    We live in Parkdale, on the riverfront in Calgary.

  40. editor says:

    Very cool, thank you for sharing! It’s truly a delight to watch birds go out nest building, enjoy! 🙂

  41. Deanne Jacques says:

    We have a pair of Robins nesting on our porch in Airdrie for the third year. The nest from last season is still there and they are building on top of it. Its a perfect spot and we can watch the nest from our front window

  42. editor says:

    That’s great to hear 🙂

  43. Linda Strang says:

    Two Robins just woke me up at 6 am with their screeching! I looked out to see what all the commotion was about! They were yelling at a crow and finally chased it out of the neighbourhood. I can only guess what they were so angry about. 🙁

  44. Linda Strang says:

    I forgot to say I am in Medicine Hat.

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