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FAQ

Question of the Week

Q. Is it unusual to see American Robins in the middle of winter?

A. We do get a lot of questions from people surprised by seeing American Robins in winter. But although some American Robins do migrate, many remain in the same place year-round. Over the past 10 years, robins have been reported in January in every U.S. state, except Hawaii, (see map) and in all of the southern provinces of Canada.

As with many birds, the wintering range of American Robins is affected by weather and natural food supply, but as long as food is available, these birds are able to do well for themselves by staying up north.

One reason why they seem to disappear every winter is that their behavior changes. In winter robins form nomadic flocks, which can consist of hundreds to thousands of birds. Usually these flocks appear where there are plentiful fruits on trees and shrubs, such as crabapples, hawthorns, holly, juniper, and others.

When spring rolls around, these flocks split up. Suddenly we start seeing American Robins yanking worms out of our yards again, and it’s easy to assume they’ve “returned” from migration. But what we’re seeing is the switch from being nonterritorial in the winter time to aggressively defending a territory in advance of courting and raising chicks. This behavioral switch is quite common in birds.

You can report your robin sightings (and any other birds you see) at eBird. Read more about American Robins in our All About Birds Species guide.

Past Questions of the Week

Q. How do birds survive in very cold temperatures?

Q. Why don't birds get cold feet?

Q. Do birds store food for the winter?

Q. What can you tell us about the habitat associations of partridges and in particular whether pear trees are ever involved?

Q. A hawk has started hunting the feeder birds in my yard. What can I do?

Q. How much do birds eat each day?

Q. Where did the domestic turkey come from?

Q. I thought geese migrated south in the winter and north in the summer. Why did I just see a flock of Canada Geese flying in the "wrong" direction?

Q. Why do migratory birds crash into buildings at night and how can people prevent it from happening?

Q. Where can I go to watch hawk migration?

Q. How do birds prepare for long migrations?

Q. Should I stop feeding birds in fall so they can start their migration?

Q. What is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?

Q. After birds leave a nest, can I clean out the nest for future use?

Q. How can I keep birds from hitting my windows?

Q. Why do woodpeckers like to hammer on houses?

Q. I’m seeing fewer birds in my yard. Is something affecting their populations?

Q. I found a baby bird. What should I do?

Q. I found a nest near my house and want to observe it but I am worried about disturbing it. Can you give me any advice?

Q. Sometimes I see little birds going after a big bird. Why do they do this?

Q. My feeders are being overrun with pigeons and blackbirds who eat all the food and keep the smaller birds away. What can I do?

Q. How can I share my bird photos with the Lab?

Q. How do I keep the squirrels in my yard away from my feeders and bird seed?

Q. Where can I go to watch hawk migration?

Q. Should I stop feeding hummingbirds in the fall so that they will migrate?

Q. After birds leave a nest, can I clean out the nest for future use?

Q. I live in a high-rise apartment with a tiny balcony. Is there any way I can attract birds all the way up on the 17th floor?

Birds of North America Online
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