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Are robins back, or did they ever leave?

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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

59 thoughts on “Are robins back, or did they ever leave?”

  1. 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. 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!

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

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

    1. 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.

  5. 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?

    1. 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 🙂

  6. 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?

    1. 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 🙂

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

    1. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

    1. 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 🙂

  11. 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!

  12. lydia jane goatcher

    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.

  13. 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
    Thanks

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

  15. 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)

    1. 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.

  16. Caroline Wrightson

    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.

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

  17. 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

  18. 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.

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

  19. Deanne Jacques

    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

  20. 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. 🙁

  21. Lesia Savedchuk

    I am writing a children’s book set in the Smoky Lake area in the thirties. Is it reasonable to say that there were robins in January? There don’t have to be many, just one that accidentally flies into the house and is taken for a sign of a good surprise to come.

  22. July 1 2020 – just noticed a new robin’s nest on our back porch light. Isn’t it a little late to be laying eggs? Calgary, AB

    1. It’s normal for them to still be having young at this time, some species have 2-3 clutches of young in a summer! 🙂

  23. About two dozen plus robins are in the walkway bordering our property, in our yard and mountain ash tree today in Edmonton. Would this be a stopover enroute to a warmer climate? Given the cool weather we were quite surprised to see them.

    1. Hi G, it could be a stopover, or they could be deciding to overwinter in the area. While it’s uncommon for robins to stay in Edmonton for the whole winter, it has been known to happen occasionally!

  24. Just had a robin in our backyard in St. Albert. It’s January 24, 2021! We always have lots of birds but have never seen a robin until springtime.

    1. Hi Kathie,

      Yes, there are quite a few that seem to be sticking around Alberta this winter! We suspect the warmer weather has made overwintering a little more attractive than migration for many of these birds

  25. Which robin is taking care of nest during hatching, male or female, or both. Seems we see only one for the past few days, from the moment they, or one only, decided to have a nest at our house?

    1. Katrina Terrill

      Hi Zofia, generally it’s the female robin who sits on the nest, though the male may occasionally take a turn. He usually sits on a tree close by to defend the nest if need be though, so have a look in the branches in any nearby trees as he could be hiding in there!

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