During the cold winter months, many bird lovers wonder what robins eat to survive such harsh conditions. Birds need lots of energy to maintain body heat by shivering and fluffing their feathers. Robins are avian visitors who brighten our gardens during warmer seasons as they feed on earthworms and insects. However, robins will also over-winter in cold climates rather than migrating.
When the ground freezes, robins can no longer feed on worms and invertebrates as usual. So, these red-breasted birds need to switch food sources to things like berries and fruits to survive throughout the winter.
Robins don’t rely on fruit-bearing plants and shrubs for their winter food supply and shift focus to the humble backyard bird table. Here, they’ll find high-calorie options like suet, nuts, seeds, and dried mealworms to help robins keep warm.
In our guide, you can learn more about what to do as winter weather arrives and you eagerly wait for the robins in the winter to return. By the end, you’ll better understand how to use feeding trays or ground feeders. Also, you’ll see how to use heated bird baths so robins can drink and bathe without getting wet and ruffle their feathers to help keep warm.
With all this, you can learn the robins’ favorite winter foods to attract many American robin visitors to your garden. (Read What Planting Zone Is Maryland)
Do Robins Stay and Overwinter or Migrate?
Robins may stick around in even the coldest winter climates rather than migrating south. They may gather in large nomadic flocks in search of food. The birds usually feed on insects and worms, disappearing once the ground freezes. This forces robins to switch to fruit and berry sources to provide the energy they need to survive the winter.
By providing robins with winter bird food sources, you can help attract these beautiful birds to your yard and help them keep warm during harsh weather. With some preparation, you can entice robins and other winter birds to your garden all season.
What is the Natural Winter Diet for Robins?
Robins rely heavily on finding fruit and berry sources during winter when their regular insect diet is unavailable. They will eat both cultivated fruits and those found on native plants:
- Sumac berries
- Wild grapes
Robins also need fresh water sources, which can be scarce during winter. Offering a heated birdbath provides robins with water to stay hydrated. Robins also eat snow to help provide the water they need. (Read Will Ryegrass Grow In Winter)
What Foods Robins Eat On Feeders?
While robins feed on the ground in warmer months, winter conditions force these garden birds to rely on feeders. Here are some of the following foods robins eat from feeders:
- Dried mealworms: High in protein, these are tasty treats robins love. Offer in special mealworm feeders.
- Suet or lard cakes: These high-fat bird foods offer calories robins need in winter. Hang suet in cages.
- Dried fruits: Cranberries, raisins, currants, and other dried fruits make quick energy sources.
- Crushed nuts: Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are nutritious.
- Bird seed: Robins will eat various seeds, including sunflower, millet, and mixed blends. Use hopper or platform feeders for birds.
Should I Offer Fresh Fruit for Robins?
In addition to dried fruit, robins welcome fresh fruits in winter. Apples, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes will all attract robins and other birds. You can offer cut fruit in small pieces on platform feeders. Or skewer larger chunks of fruit on branches or spikes.
Just be sure to remove any moldy fruit regularly and clean feeders to avoid disease. Also, switch to dried fruit in extremely cold temps, as frozen fresh fruit can harm birds.
Do Robins Eat Mealworms?
Mealworms are a favorite wintertime protein source and will entice robins to arrive and snack. You can buy dried mealworms to serve at bird feeders. Robins are often first to arrive, so the old saying “The early bird gets the worm” was genuine and based on robins.
Try soaking dried mealworms in water before putting them in feeders for extra nutrition. The birds will eat the mealworms, and robins like the nutritious water. (Read What Temperature Is Too Cold To Water Grass)
How Can I Offer Suet for Robins?
Suet is made of animal fat and provides quick energy that helps birds survive cold winters and maintain their body heat. You can offer suet to robins in a few different ways:
- Suet feeders – Use open basket suet cages or bags. Situate them 5-7 feet off the ground for robins.
- Suet logs – Fill wood-boring holes or mesh onion bags with suet. Hang them from trees.
- Suet cake – Impale suet chunks on branches, fence posts, or spikes to give robins natural perches.
How Can I Provide Winter Shelter for Robins?
In addition to food, robins also need shelter from harsh conditions. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide protective cover from wind, snow, and rain. You can also help Robins by:
- Planting winter fruiting trees and shrubs to supply winter berries.
- Leaving leaf litter and brush piles as hiding spots.
- Providing a source of open water like a heated birdbath.
- Offering roosting boxes 8-10 feet off the ground for overnight refuge.
Thicketed areas with dense cover are ideal for winter roosts. Avoid pruning back too severely in the fall.
Top Tips for Feeding Winter Robins
Attracting robins to your yard this winter starts with offering the right mix of foods. Here are some top tips to help robins make it through the winter:
- Provide high fat and foods high in calories like suet and nuts or mild cheese.
- Dried mealworms are a tasty source of protein for robins.
- Experiment with fruit offerings like cranberries, apple slices, grapes, or other small berries.
- Use platform and ground-level feeders for easy robin access.
- Include shelter such as evergreen trees or roost boxes.
- Have fresh water available in a heated birdbath.
- Get feeders in position early in the fall to establish feeding routines before the snow.
With some planning, you can help robins and other birds survive cold winters and enjoy their beauty up close through your windows. Just remember to offer a variety of nutritious foods suited to robins, and they’ll reward you with visits all season long.
Conclusion: How To Help Robins Through The Winter
Robins are one of the birds that overwinter in cold climates rather than migrating. To help robins survive through to the breeding season, bird lovers can provide essential food sources.
On bird feeders offer high-calorie foods like suet, nuts, dried peas, and crushed peanuts. Robins also like dried mealworms for protein and will eat fruits still clinging to vines. To help birds keep warm, make fresh water available in heated birdbaths so robins can bathe and maintain feather insulation.
With proper nutrition and shelter, birds eat from bird feeders as these are an essential source of food and energy so that birds may withstand winter conditions. By understanding what robins need to survive, bird enthusiasts can continue enjoying these beautiful birds through the cold months. (Read Will Frost Kill Grass Seedlings)
FAQs About Feeding Robins in Winter
Do robins stay in the same place in winter and summer?
Most robins are migratory and will overwinter in areas further south. However, some robins will stick to the same breeding grounds year-round, especially if food and shelter are available nearby.
How often should I feed robins in winter?
Aim to keep feeders stocked daily, so robins have a reliable food source. Check feeders often and replace suet or other foods as needed, especially during snowstorms when natural food gets buried.
What dried worms are best for robins?
Mealworms are the best option since they have higher fat content. Stock up on dried mealworms and soak them in water to rehydrate them before putting them out for robins.
Can I feed Robin’s bread or rice?
No, birds should not eat bread as it lacks nutrition and can cause diseases in waterfowl. Rice swells in birds’ stomachs, so stick to high-protein and high-fat bird foods instead.
How do I keep robin water from freezing?
Use a birdbath heater or deicer to keep robins’ water supply thawed. Place it away from prevailing winds. Refill with warm water 2-3 times a day during extreme cold.