Most birds fly south in winter. Many robins do as well, but some stay behind for the winter.
The American robin can be found in northern Canada in summer, and as far south as southern Mexico or Guatemala in winter.
Where do robins go in the winter is hard to answer because there is tremendous variety in where they actually go.
Scientists believe the search for food is the primary motivation for robins to migrate, and not specifically because of the weather. Robins can survive at below-freezing temperatures if they have food.
Some may migrate a short distance if they find food. Their migratory patterns are not as many birds for this reason.
It is hard to say why some go and some stay, but some experts say the female is more likely to migrate.
Where do robins go in the winter?
The answer to where robins go in the winter depends. They may stick around or they may go thousands of miles away. Unlike some birds, robins do not migrate to find warmer weather. Robins move about more in search of food than temperature, but the supply of natural food is often more plentiful in a warmer area.
The Food Supply
Some head in a generally southern direction when the weather turns cold in search of food, and some stay behind and tough out the winter. Robins can survive in below-freezing weather.
Those that do migrate head south, and return to the area they were the previous spring. They may not find their old nest, but they do find the general area.
The robin may go from northern Canada to southern Mexico and Guatemala. They also flock to Texas and Florida.
Robins could go just a few miles or as much as almost 3,000 miles during the winter months. Robins can make a trip from Alberta, Canada, to Guatemala in 70 hours of flying time.
Even so, it would be unusual for them to make a direct trip to the other end of their range.
Robins also migrate to Florida and Texas in huge numbers in winter. The food supply of a given area is the biggest variable.
Scientists believe it is the female that is more likely to migrate south, leaving the males behind. Males keep a low profile during winter, seeking out what food can be found locally.
This leads the general population to think they are all gone. In spring, the females return. If the males have left, they will return soon after.
It is hard to say how far they will migrate, and that can change each year depending on the food supply.
If they find food just 100 miles away, they may stop there and g no further. They could go well over 3,000 miles as they do in some cases.
Robins often migrate together in a flock for two reasons. A large group of birds can help keep watch over predators.
A large group also has more chances of finding a food supply.
Why Male Robins Stay Behind
The male robins that stay behind get an advantage in the breeding territory. Robins are known to be territorial, and they’re willing to put up a fight to keep their space.
Those that stay behind have an area, and when the females return, they are waiting for them. They are songbirds in spring, announcing that they have returned to those that stayed behind.
While some do stay behind, those that do could be forced to go elsewhere if the food supply runs out. They will all return to the general area in summer.
Changing their Diet
Robins can also change their diet to fit the conditions they are in. When the weather’s warm, robins can feast on earthworms and invertebrates.
When they are no longer available, the robins switch to winter fruits and berries. If they don’t find those, they will head south in search of food.
If you’re interested to know what robins like to eat, do take the time to read about it.
Keeping Them Around
Robins are in search of food. They do not, however, eat birdseed, so filling up a bird feeder won’t attract them.
Having bushes that produce berries in winter will attract them, or keep them around in colder months. Piles of dead leaves are also a habitat for insects through the winter.
The robins will also be attracted to an area with insects to eat.
Unlike many migratory birds, the timing of migration of robins can be very different. This leads biologists to believe it is the food supply more than the weather that moves them.
Robins could stay in an area deep into winter, and leave if there is a snowfall that covers the ground for several days. Those that stay behind could also be forced to move much later than those that moved on earlier.
Across the Atlantic, there is another species of robins that lives in Europe. In appearance, European robins are extremely similar to their American counterparts.
There is less difference in coloring between males and females among European birds.
European birds are also more solitary, avoiding flocks.
Migratory patterns are similar to European robins. They move about in search of food. They can range from Northern Europe to northern Africa and western Asia.
Frequently Asked Questions about Where Robins Go in the Winter
Why are there still a few robins around in the winter?
It’s the female robins that migrate more than the males. Scientists believe this gives them some advantage in keeping their territory. They are very territorial birds but do not return to the same nest. The ones that stay behind tend to keep a low profile.
How can I encourage some robins to stick around for the winter?
Robins do not like birdhouses and they do not eat birdseed, so a feeder does not help. Having bushes that produce berries in winter will attract them and tempt them to stay. Piles of leaves can house insects in winter, and that would also attract robins.
Why is there so much variation in Robin’s migratory habits?
Robins are different from most migratory birds because their motivation is primarily finding food. They may head south in search of food, and if they find it in just 100 miles or so, they could stay there all winter. They might move on later in winter again in search of food.
Conclusion: Why It Matters
Robins go where the food is in winter, whether that is a short or long distance. Studying these birds can help scientists get early information on climate change or other kinds of environmental changes.
The migratory patterns could help us understand the climate and our environment better.