An Important Time to Eat! Snow covers the frozen soil. Earthworms stay underground. What do robins eat in wintertime? Food is even more important than shelter in cold weather. It fuels metabolism, giving robins the fat and energy they need to move, stay warm, and survive.
Finding Winter Food Winter robins eat berries and other fruits left on shrubs, trees, and vines. Fruit is high in calories and doesn't spoil quickly in cold temperatures. Summer's leftover fruit becomes a robin's winter diet.
Follow the Food Robins are nomadic in the winter. They move in search of food. They do not occupy and defend a home territory as they do during the breeding season. Most winter robins travel in flocks. Tens, hundreds, even thousands may fly together.
Eat and Go In winter, hungry flocks may appear suddenly on berry-filled trees. The robins feast on the fruit until the tree is bare. Winter robins go where the food is and stay until it's gone.
Favorites First Robins eat the tastiest fruits first. By late winter and early spring they may have to shift to less favored, less nutritious leftovers. This robin settled for sumac berries when caught in an April snowstorm.
Food as Fuel If robins have enough food, they can survive extreme cold. Robins make their body heat by shivering. The energy to shiver comes from food. This robin has also fluffed out its feathers to help it stay warm.
Feeding Winter Robins You can offer robins frozen or fresh fruit. Place apple slices, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or cherries on the ground. Robins may not visit bird feeders. Young robins learn that fruit grows on trees and shrubs. They just don't expect to find it anywhere else!
Birdseed? No Thanks! Even the hungriest robin doesn't normally eat birdseed. Robins can't digest seeds, and their beaks are not built for cracking. However, a very smart, very hungry robin that has observed other birds at feeders can learn to try birdseed! Instead, you could buy mealworms at a pet store for your hungry winter robins.
Got Water? Robins need water in the winter, too. When water is frozen, thirsty birds must eat snow. You can set out a bowl of shallow water when the temperature is above 10°F. When colder, the steam given off by freezing water coats feathers with ice, and the birds can't fly. Bathing is also important. Dirty feathers lose insulation, so a clean bird is a warm bird.
Food For Thought Warm and fed, this robin survives winter. Do you think he is looking for signs of spring?