Do Robins Migrate? Where Do They Go? When Do They Return?

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Mar 06, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 26, 2021
American robin perched on a parking block.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.1 Min

The American robin is a popularly known, migratory songbird, with a reddish-orange breast.

These birds are widely found throughout the north of the USA, and southern Canada; in the winter months, they travel to central Mexico along the Pacific Coast. The American robin's migratory pattern is the most notable amongst the American birds and has been observed extensively by geologists.

Typically, the American robins start to move towards the far north from Florida to the Gulf states. They are known to usually follow the migration pattern known as the 37-degree average daily isotherm.

The primary reason why the American robin migrates is that during the winter, the ground reaches its freezing point and it is hard to locate their favorite food, which includes earthworms, caterpillars, and other insects.

Therefore, these birds eat a fruit-based diet in winter consisting of mostly berries. Since there is a scarcity of fruits in the north, most of these birds travel towards the south.

American robins tend to move ahead towards warmer fronts and usually arrive before or along with the rainy season because it is the ideal weather for hunting earthworms that come out of mud tunnels to keep from drowning in the water-logged mud.

British and Irish robins on the other hand are mostly sedentary, and most do not migrate for more than 3 mi (5 km). Some of the UK robins that do migrate are predominantly females and are known to cross the English Channel during winters to live in a warmer climate.

In some instances, they are also known to travel towards the far south of Europe, to areas like Portugal and southern Spain.

Most of these bird species travel intermediate distances. However, some birds from this species have been known to cover thousands of miles during migration, for instance, the birds that travel from Vancouver Island to Guatemala.

Many have been seen to not travel at all like the ones that live and breed in the southern parts of Baja California, and Mexico.

In this article, you will find a detailed description of the American robin migration, their migratory pattern, the breeding season of American robins, breeding grounds, and areas of the American robin.

We will also discuss the migration of these flocks of birds in spring to the far south, what they do in the summer, winter, and the fall, when and where they arrive, their living territory, the ideal weather for them to travel, when a robin's nest is built, what they eat, how far do they fly and the like.

If you liked our article on the migration of the American robins, you can check out other similarly interesting articles likeare owls smart? And are birds warm-blooded?

Where do robins migrate to?

Unlike hummingbirds and other birds that are known to cover long distances, robin birds are intermediate flyers and fly towards the south.

More than half of the robin population in northern Canada is emptied by winter and places like Florida and Texas come at the receiving end of the larger winter flocks.

Those making the journey are not lured by warm temperature, robins do not travel because of the falling temperature, but because of the lack of food that the cold season brings with it.

When caterpillars and earthworms, which are predominantly their food, get buried underneath the freezing ground, it is what makes the robins travel down from the north towards warmer climates in search of fresh food.

They tend to defend their territories aggressively where they raise their young in the summer months, and during the winter, they turn into nomads, searching for food. Weather is also a major influence on robin movements.

Before they take their flight for migrating, robins eat more than usual to increase fat content in their body, which then fuels their migration.

Adults begin molting, which is the process of growing new plumes on their bodies and feathers for flight. During the fall, in a warm climate, robins wander in the northern areas when there is a surplus of food since their migration is irregular.

In the springtime, they travel when worms emerge from the ground and females go back to their nesting places especially where mud is abundant.

Do all robins migrate?

No, all robins do not migrate anymore.

Previously, all robins used to travel extensively during the winter months and they still traveled in recent years. However, thanks to a few very important adaptations in every US state and all the Canadian provinces in the south, several robins do not need to travel and can stay back in their areas.

The robins that stay back usually change their diet, which transitions from invertebrates that are rich in proteins to winter fruits rich in vitamins like berries, hollies, junipers, hawthorns, crabapples, and the like.

When migrating, male robins return to the breeding grounds, they make sure that they do so before the females so that they can make the best regions their own and protect their chosen areas against the other robins. The males also search for nest building materials for the female robins.

Since the females do not need to return early urgently, they take their time to travel back so that there is mud by the time they reach.

Also, the cold weather is not suitable for females to build the nest and lay eggs. Hence, they wait till the weather and the environment is favorable enough.

Erithacus rubecula walking on the ground.

How far do robins migrate?

Emigrating robins can travel at a speed of approximately 30-35 mph (48-56 kph), and are capable of migrating both, during the day and the night.

Robins found in the southern parts of Canada leave during the fall for the US. Some robins also travel towards southwest Mexico or the Gulf Coast.

Even though a majority of the robin birds travel towards the southern states during the winter, some stay back and move around in the northern areas. Food is the main reason behind their migration and not the temperature.

Their diet consists of ground insects and fruits like berries.

The robin birds have been seen to reach even when temperatures reach up to 37° F (2.7° C), and this is because this temperature is ideal for finding their food, which becomes available in temperatures high enough for the ground to thaw.

Robins can thrive in any weather be it summer, spring, fall, or winter as long as the food is abundant.

During the winter months, this bird species wanders in the winter as the temperatures get lower. It is during this time of the year that this bird species require food the most because of its scarcity.

This is the reason why these robins travel from the north towards the south in search of food.

Robins move due to the food supplies diminishing resulting from harsh weather and if all robins could travel to an area, there would not be enough food to last them all. Therefore, most of these birds spread out to other locations during the winter to search for food like berries, shrubs, and critters.

Several tend to stay back and not choose to migrate from wherever fruit is abundant.

After migration when they come back to their territory, the birds begin to sing. Robin flocks have also been observed to sing in winter, due to the approaching breeding season.

Some robins can fly a thousand miles, such as the ones that leave from Vancouver Island to as far south as Guatemala. Others don't travel at all, such as robins that breed in southern Mexico and Baja California. Most robins travel intermediate distances.

Do robins migrate in flocks?

Robins often move and associate in flocks, sometimes along with several other species of birds as well.

Sometimes these flocks can be quite huge in number reaching up to 100 per flock. During the fall and the colder months, it has been observed that not only does their diet transition to that of a fruit-based one but they also like to live and thrive in sociable flocks.

This act of migrating and spending the colder months in flocks makes it easier for them to search for more food sources. When one robin finds food, it calls the others.

Flocking is great to keep an eye out and spot predators and protect themselves as well. This behavior of flocking serves them quite well when it's not the breeding season because they get quite territorial then.

Do robins migrate or hibernate?

Robins do not need to hibernate and their need for migration is only for food.

A vast population of these birds moves to the southern and warmer areas in the winter where food is abundant. Although, some tend to stick around in the northern areas.

Robins are known to withstand very low temperatures because of their thick plumes and feathers and in most areas, you will be able to spot robins in the winter. In recent times, this is mostly because many of them have adapted to the low temperature and also because of various adaptations made by humans to preserve them.

Wandering robins are not considered to be migratory because they are technically only moving like nomads and going places where food is.

During times when the weather is favorable, male robin birds can be heard singing. It is a sign that indicates that they are investigating and marking their territories and also breeding or feeding; they are highly territorial.

During wet or cold weather when it is not favorable for them, then you will rarely hear the singing of a robin bird because it is the time they primarily concentrate on taking shelter and feeding themselves.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do robins migrate? then why not take a look at where do birds go when it rains? or American robin facts.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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