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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Robin migration and wintering

Migrating robins on Sanibel

Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto) tree with palm fruits

Robins eat the palm fruits

They also eat the fruits of the native Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa) plant

We often have questions from people who see American Robins in northern regions during the winter and wonder why the robins haven't migrated south. Most robins go to warmer regions of the country during winter. A few robins may stay in northern regions, which could be a problem if severe weather sets in. Robins wander in flocks and eat fruits and berries.

Here on Sanibel Island, FL we are seeing many robin flocks, some containing hundreds of birds, who wander then descend on an area and eat fruits. Sanibel has strict laws that encourage people to keep native vegetation on their properties, so Sanibel is full of the native fruits that robins love. In our yard, they are eating the fruits of the native Sabal Palm tree that hang in great clusters. They eat many other kinds of fruits including those of Wild Coffee.

No matter where you are in the country, you can help robins during their migration by planting native trees and shrubs that produce fruits and berries. On our NH property, we plant many crab apple trees. Some people also put out raisins that have been plumped up in warm water, for robins that are caught in severe winter weather in northern regions.

34 comments:

Tony Morris said...

Did you know that there is an American Robin in Yorkshire, nothern England at the moment. It's been there about three weeks and is attracting quite a lot of attention. It is about the 23rd UK record.

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

That's amazing. Don't you wonder how it got there?

Anonymous said...

On November 11, 2007, there are robins still feeding on berries in my backyard in the heart of Toronto. It seems very late and the winter here is quite severe. The ground is usually frozen and snow covered for two to three months each winter. Is this indeed late for robins to begin their migration? Could their presence be a forecast of a warmer winter?

Anonymous said...

This morning there are at least 100 Robbin's foraging on our property... especially around our ponds... in East Texas. We are new to the area, and have no idea about the normal habits (and NUMBERS) of Robins here this time of year, but this is incredible... enough so to make me stop and Google it to find out more! It is a truly amazing site to see the vibrant colors of the Robins beautifully backdropped by the fall leaves. Blessings!

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Robins may stay in northern areas, like Toronto, as long as the weather is not too severe and there are supplies of berries still left. So, it's understandable they are still there. Perhaps, with warmer winters, robins may stay north for longer periods of time. However, they are still dependent on food sources and if the berry supply is eaten up, they must move to southern areas with good food. We have seen them in Florida, by the hundreds, moving about as large flocks, eating the berries, and palm fruits. Not surprising there are large numbers in TX.

DeEljon Nettles said...

these last couple of weeks I saw thousands of robins flying high in sky in lower peach tree al,I knew they were robins because of the sounds of them.

shelleyanne said...

My husband and I just noticed a number of "fat" robins in our crab apple tree. It is snowing. We live in upstate NY. We felt so bad for these birds, even though there are a lot of berries on this tree, how can they survive what is to come weather wise? We want to put up a bird feeder, is this a good idea and what would we put in it? Also thought about hanging a few bird houses? I know nature takes care of itself. These birds are in right in front of our front picture window, beautiful to watch
I have just read amazing facts I did not know about Robins. It actually made me feel like a kid again discovering new facts about nature. I want to help the birds! DO they need my help? Shelley R. Upstate NY

steve said...

a couple dozen robins called our birdbath home last weekend in nw fla
i wondered where they were going
thanks for info

happy holidays
steve

Brad said...

Saw the first flock of robins this winter today (12/20) in Tampa, FL. I have a camphor tree full of messy berries and I hope that the robins eat every last berry like they did last winter--makes the spring clean up a lot easier.

Anonymous said...

I live in Bradenton, Florida and one day each February the last few years, I get thousands of robins. I call it "robin day" and I wake up to have my front lawn, trees, bushes and the field across the street blanketed by robins. It is one of the coolest things about living in Florida! I am not sure if they eat sunflower seeds, but I have scattered them around and left some bowls of water. They haven't come yet but they'll be here any day.

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Many robins winter in Florida and eat all the many kinds of berries there, especially the native Sabal Palm tree fruits. Robins do not eat sunflower seeds so do not come to feeders. However, you can provide them with fresh water, which they very much desire. When in FL in winter we have had hundreds of Robins come to water dishes we put out.

Robin said...

question: In the Spring, what determines how far Robin's migrate north? Say like some will make their home in South Dakota and some will keep traveling to say like Northern Mn.

Anonymous said...

April 23, 2008
Yesterday we had a flock of 100 or more robins decend on our Calgary Alberta (Canada)community. This week Calgary is experiencing a cold snap and blowing snow. I think of Robins as Spring and summer birds and it is strange to watch them flit around our snow covered yards.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any robins in over
two weeks here in South Eastern South Dakota. Where have all the robins gone?

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any robins here in southern Ohio in over a month. It's been very dry; could they have already left for the South?

Jann said...

We see hundreds of Robins in our trees and bushes(with berries)Here in Arkansas for just a short time in the 1st two weeks of December, then its off to where? Maybe from other bloggers they are heading to Texas. Just how far south do they go?

Anonymous said...

Jan 6th 2009
We have had over a 1000 Robins
fly over our yard each evening for the last week. Conroe,TX

Anonymous said...

I've lived in NY,Long Island for over 20 years, usually the robin's arrive in late Feb or March, but this year one was in the back yard eating berries on 2/8/09. I have never seen them return this early.

Anonymous said...

The robins seem to have left Denver overnight. I haven't seen one all day today. A male and female couple left their 3 little babies to die in a nest under our porch. They were doing such a great job caring for them and suddenly they just disappeared. What happened?

M Powell said...

Hundreds of robins suddenly appeared in our neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee today. We, like the rest of the east, are experiencing an extreme cold snap and have a rare inch of snow on the ground. I usually don't pay too much attention to birds but this is remarkable.

Karen said...

We have 100s of thousands of Robins in our area and have for the last month. I live about 20 south of Dallas in Midlothian, TX. They are all over the ground about an hour prior to sunset and then move to the cedar trees for cover over night. Serioulsy thousands of them over a 2 mile stretch- I love this time of year. I can't wait to see the Cedar Waxwings that join the festivites in February.

Louise said...

This week I've watched hundreds of Robins here in Spring Hill, FL. They are eating berries off the Camphor Tree and something off the ground. It was near freezing temps here last night - I thought they would go further south. Glad they stayed - they are beautiful birds! :)

Michael said...

I live in Louisville KY-a mile from the Ohio River.On Feb. 14th-well over a 1000 Robins descended upon my house and yard-eating holly berries till all were gone.I have lived in KY all my life and have never seen this before-they came from the south and left to the south.My numbers are not an exageration.Neighbors were filming it and many were watching.Many birds were hit by passing cars until the crowd of birds grew so large that people slowed down due to the large gathering.Is this unusual for such a large number of Robins to migrate over here at this time of year-or was it a miracle out of nowhere...Michael

Anonymous said...

I miss the Robins yearly visit to South Louisiana.They used to be here by the thousands when i was a kid but they have become fewer and fewer through the years until I see hardly any.Only 10 to 20 as of today and it is time for them to be heading back up north.I wander why they don't come this far south these days?Seems that they are passing over LA. going through Ark.to Texas or not even coming this way at all stopping in Florida.I was just wandering I surely miss them. 02/22/2010

lauren said...

We live in Ottawa and I can honestly say I have never seen a "flock" of robins in my entire life We usually have the same pair return (except this year only one has returned). This is about the 5th year. Does this mean that they only travel in flocks when they are down south??. Another question how do they know how to get back to my backyard. Martha in Ottawa,
Ontario

Anonymous said...

On 18 Dec. 2010 My wife and I went to the cemetary on Raeford RD. in Fayetteville NC. to visit our son. It Was his birthday. While we were there, The cemetary grounds were covered with hundreds of Robbins. We have not noticed the robbins any where else this late in the season.

Mike Furber said...

I have just returned from a walk with my dog, Masai, who alerted me to a flock of 150 or so birds flying into a group of trees just off our path. At first I didn't pay much attention other than to look at this group as they hopped from one tree to the next or changed branches. On walking closer to them I saw that they were Robins which immediately struck me as ood for this time of year ( January in S.W.Ontario, Canada, plus it was snowing at the time and -3 degrees Centrigrade). Once in a while you might see the odd laggard who has yet to fly south to warmer climes, but never have I seen a flock like this other than in the Spring migration as they're heading north.
Interested in any thoughts about why such behaviour en masse?

Jeanne Askins said...

Just saw a huge flock of robins on top of the snow in back of the nursing home where I work. I also thought it odd for this time of year. Are we expecting an early Spring and they know something I don't? We've had a very cold, snowy winter here in North Carolina this year so far.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in my home for over 10 years and never witnessed the flocking behavior of Robins until this week.

Here in Nashville we have hundreds, probably thousands working the neighborhood for food. My Hollies are picked clean of berries, and the leaf litter piles I made in the fall are strewn all about.

There are so many, they look like flocks of Starlings, filling the trees and flying en masse.

Anonymous said...

Woke up yesterday and had hundreds of Robins on the ground in my backyard by a golf course. Never had this before . They are gone today.

Anonymous said...

Robin Spotted at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto today

Robin said...

We live on a ranch in Wyoming. Our spring-summer robins are always gone by August,but the winter robins usually come in November or December to stay the winter, even though it's really cold here (sometimes down to -30). They eat the olives from the Russian olive trees. But our winter robins have just now come here--I guess because it's been a milder winter, but now there are big snowstorms up in Canada and Montana, etc.

Anonymous said...

yeP there's robins galore in nashville. they have been on my property for the last 2 or 3 days probably hiding from all the murderous 'pussies' that the city allows to free roam the neighborhood...stupiditY but like some others have noted i have always been very observant and i have never seen this here.

birdy said...

We saw the starlings gathering in large numbers for a while this fall and then something strange occurred... American Robins took over the trees and fields here in central Missouri. There are many hundreds of them flying north across our morning sky from their night roosts right now. I've been wondering what's up, because I've never seen the starlings gone this time of year, and I was sure the robins should leave for the winter here, I distinctly remember them arriving here in spring every year. I've wondered if they were just gathering here for a time before going south, but its almost December! What is going on in this world?