American Robin

American Robin

American Robin

CT, MI and WI have all chosen the American Robin as their state bird, and it is also well known to bird lovers across the country.

Identifying them

American Robins are about ten inches long and have unique coloring that makes them easily identifiable once you know what to look for.

Where they live

These friendly birds tend to nest near people, and often in inconvenient places like on top of porch lights or in window sills.

Their families

The female American Robin usually lays four pastel blue eggs in her nest, and will often make her nest right on top of an older one.

Favorite foods

American Robins are picky eaters that are not tempted into your yard by birdseed. Instead they eat earthworms, mealworms, and fruit.

Few birds are as well-known as the American Robin. This friendly songbird is comfortable around people, and will sometimes even get used to dogs that play in the yard where it nests and feeds. Although they are often found on the ground, American Robins are also fast and strong in flight.

American Robins are rarely mistaken for other birds, and are often referred to simply as "Robins" in the United States. Their behavior (often found pulling earthworms up from the ground) and distinctive coloring tend to make them easy to identify. Their warm orange chests and perky songs make locating them easy.

American Robins are large songbirds (around ten inches in size), and are often used as a benchmark when talking about the size of other birds.

Did you know that American Robins don't usually migrate?

Although people in the north often consider the arrival of American Robins in their yards to be the first sign of spring, in fact many robins remain in the area year-round if there is plentiful food. They may move from a neighborhood into a wooded area with more feeding options, but they are still around.

As weather turns colder, they simply move deeper into forests where they may find wild berries growing on shrubs, trees or vines. American Robins will stay in a feeding location, often in large flocks, until they have worked their way through a food source, and will then move on to the next one.

robin eating berries

Learn where Robins live

As spring arrives and mating season begins, American Robins begin to pair off. Males work hard to attract a female and many of the songs you hear American Robins singing are to get the attention of a female bird.

Once the birds have selected their mates, they choose a protected location and then female builds the nest. She makes it from plants and grasses, as well as loose pieces of string or even animal hair. American Robin nests are loosely held together and then lined with layers of mud and soft grass.

The ideal nesting site for an American Robin family is at least five feet off the ground, but the actual location can be anything from a bush or tree to a nesting shelf you mount for them to use. A simple shelf in a covered area is a great way to attract nesting American Robins.

Since they can have up to three broods each year, American Robins will often build a new nest on top of one from a previous brood. They will even return to use nests the following year if you don’t remove it.

American Robins lay an average of four eggs which are incubated by the female for about two weeks. Once the eggs hatch she will care for the nestlings, feeding them earthworms or mealworms until they are able to fend for themselves and leave the nest, which usually occurs 14-16 days after they hatch.

mother robin feeding babies

Young American Robins are a lot of fun to watch. Once I observed an American Robin parent showing its young how to eat my strawberries right off the plant. While I hate to encourage such behavior, it was fascinating to see the adult bird teaching the juvenile what to eat (and where my strawberry plant was located).

Learn more about what Robins eat

Much of the year is spent looking for food, especially earthworms, in grassy yards. As you watch, an American Robin will often pull a long stringy earthworm out of the ground and swallow it whole.

American Robins are also fans of fruit. From strawberries to apples or wild berries, American Robins will eat at bird feeders that offer mealworms or fresh fruit. Make sure to replace fruit you offer for American Robins every day or two, so it does not go bad. You can also plant fruit trees or flowering bushes that have winter berries in an effort to keep American Robins nearby year-round.

American Robins are friendly songbirds that are naturally attracted to areas where people live. The grass provides a great feeding ground for earthworms and your home provides a protected place where they can nest. With a birdbath (for fresh water) and a little luck, you’ll be able to watch American Robins in your yard for months each year.

Photo Credit: Robin on a fence by sjessup via Depositphotos, Kelly Colgan Azar, saje, cc
Wood, T., Williamson, S., and Glassberg, J. 2005. Birds of North America. Sterling Publishing, New York.
Alderfer, J. eds. 2006. National Geographic Complete Birds of North America. National Geographic, Washington DC.