Practically everyone who lives in Maryland has seen a robin. Its
characteristic red breast, so bright against its brown-gray and
white body, is familiar to many. Male and female robins look very
much alike. However, if you look carefully, you'll be able to see
that male robins are slightly larger than females and have darker
gray feathers on their heads.
Robins are found almost anywhere in the United States. Robins that
nest in Canada will often migrate to the United States in the winter
while some robins spend their winters in Mexico. Most, however,
remain in one area all year long. If you don't see your resident
robins in the winter, then it's probably because they are living in
the woods where they can find food and shelter from the harsh winter
Robins live in two different kinds of environments. In the spring,
these birds move to their traditional nesting territories. These are
usually in park-like areas with lots of big shade trees and fields
with short grass. Shade trees, and sometimes shrubs, are used to
shelter their nests. Grassy fields, filled with worms and other
grubs, provide a perfect food source for the robins and their
growing young. In winter, robins cannot find insects, so they rely
on plants that produce fruit late in the year. Therefore, many
robins retreat to wooded areas in the winter, making it seem like
they migrated. During this time, fruits become a staple of robin
diets. Interestingly enough, robins which almost exclusively consume
honeysuckle berries at this time will sometimes get intoxicated!
Robins begin nesting in April. Females are in charge of nest site
selection as well as nest construction. The female robins will build
cup-shaped nests that are reinforced with soft mud and lined with
dry grasses. On average, robins lay three to four bright blue eggs.
After about two weeks, the eggs hatch, delivering blind and
featherless young into the world. The chicks totally depend on their
parents for food and warmth. In another two weeks or so, the young
birds will be fully feathered and will begin to try to fly out of
Should You Rescue That Baby Robin?
Often, young robins fly out of the nest before they are able to fly
back! Their parents will continue to feed them and they will get the
strength they need to fly back within a day or two. Should you find
a young bird in your yard that appears abandoned, think twice before
"rescuing" it. If you can find and reach the nest, then it's okay to
put the bird back. Its parents will not abandon it. It is myth that
birds will abandon their young because of human smell. Robins and
most other birds have a very poor sense of smell. If you can't find
or reach the nest, then check the health of the bird. A baby bird
that is completely covered with feathers and can hop away from you
does not need your help. It is much better off in the wild than it
will be in your house. Sometimes other animals eat these young
birds. This is a natural process and is in no way unusual or cruel.
Often, humans "rescuing" baby birds cause them to suffer much more
than if they had been left where found.
How to Attract Robins
If you have a lawn, then they will come! Robins prefer open ground,
such as suburban lawns, on which to forage for food, and some woods
or at least a few scattered trees and shrubs for nesting and
roosting. They are most often seen searching for earthworms in
backyard lawns. Robins also eat insects including caterpillars,
grasshoppers and beetle grubs. In your backyard, set aside a damp or
grassy area for them so that they have a place to find earthworms
and insects. It is important to keep the area pesticide free, so
that the bugs will not be killed off and residual toxins will not
affect robins and other foraging birds. You can also build a
pile or maintain a pile of leaves in your yard, which will help
attract worms and insects for them to forage on.
Although robins are typically seen searching for earthworms, over
half of their diet in summer, fall and winter is made up of fruits
and berries such as bayberry, elderberry, grape, crabapple and
holly. Planting fruiting varieties such as cherry, dogwood, sumac,
Virginia creeper and blackberry will help attract robins to your
backyard throughout the year. Robins will also eat the fruits of
hollies, mulberry, apple, pokeweed, blueberry, serviceberry,
greenbrier, elderberry, viburnum, hawthorn, hackberry and spicebush.
Robins are not frequent visitors to feeders, but when they do come,
they like fresh fruit. Apples, grapes and cherries, suet and peanuts
offered in a platform type feeder are among their favorite foods.
Just Add Water!
Robins not only need to drink, but also they love to bathe often. To
help the robins that stay in your area, a birdbath is one of the
best items to have during both the summer and winter months.
In the spring, robins construct a nest, which the female lines with
mud. During the mating season, beginning in April, provide a source
of mud for them to use to build their nests. You can accomplish this
by taking an old trash can lid and filling it up with water and
Robins readily nest near humans. For example, they commonly nest on
top of downspouts, windowsills, doors and lights. To entice them to
nest in other areas, you can create a special robin-nesting platform
which provides firm support and overhead protection from rain. You
can build a nesting platform for your backyard robins as it's easy
to do. When the birds use it, the platform will help the robin's
nest survive strong winds and summer thunderstorms.
How to Build a Robin Nesting Platform
- 1"x 10" x 4' untreated lumber
- 1" nails
- Mark and cut the pieces out of lumber as shown. Assemble.
- Place it on a sheltered window ledge or about 6 to 10 feet above
the ground on the trunk of a tree. Be sure to place the box in an
area with little human traffic as nesting robins can be territorial
around their nests. Don’t place the nest over top a hard surface
like concrete because fledglings may get injured when they leave the
- Be sure to remove old nesting material each fall so that the
robins can build a new nest the following year. Clean and disinfect
the shelves before putting them out again in the spring.
Robin Nesting Platform Design Adapted from Minnesota DNR
Invite Wildlife to Your Backyard!
For Additional Information, Contact:
Wildlife and Heritage Service
580 Taylor Ave, E-1
Annapolis, MD 21401
- Robins sitting in tree, photo by Kerry Wixted
- Fledgling robin, photo by Lin and Dan Dzurisin
- Robin in American Holly, photo by Kerry Wixted
- Illustration of Robin Nesting Platform, design adapted from Minnesota DNR