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NASApublicdomainwikirobin
American robin, public domain NASA photo courtesy of wikipedia

Backyard Birding Information – How to Attract Robins

Your backyard bird paradise is not complete without the busy and omnipresent robin.

What's Great about Robins?

  • Robins are fun to watch. Bug-eaters, they hunt by sight [1] and that is why you see them dashing across your yard, stopping and peering, and then grabbing something.  I have never seen a robin just ambling along; they run everywhere and are full of energy.
  • Robins have a beautiful warbling song as do most thrushes. One bird writer describes it as "a rich cheer-up, cheer, cheer, cheer-up" that can be heard at dawn and dusk [2].
  • They get rid of garden pests.  True, their favorite food, worms, are beneficial for the garden.  But they also scarf up grasshoppers, caterpillars, termites, and other harmful bugs [3].
  • They're willing to nest close to human habitation for maximum bird-watching and they often nest more than once per season [4].
  • They have a lot of personality.  The males are known for aggressively guarding the nesting territory as we found out one summer when a male robin started fluttering against our bedroom window every dawning day.  He came from a nest in a nearby tree.  We finally figured out that he was fighting his own reflection in the glass!  Drawing the drapes eliminated his mirror image and gave him and us less stress each morning.

Food and Water - How You Can Help

  • Since robins are bug-eaters, you won't be able to lure them to your feeding area unless you put out mealworms (which can get expensive).  Try putting out berries, raisins, and sliced apples in small pieces of apple with the cut side facing up. Also, robins love to bathe.  You can lure them with the sound of running water (see The Best Way to Offer Water to Wild Birds).
  • Don't use pesticides on your garden and lawn.  You don't want to be serving up poisoned caterpillars and worms to the robins.
  • In the long run, landscape your yard with robin-pleasing shrubs and trees like crabapple, grape, and elderberry [5].  I've also observed that robins love fruiting mulberry trees and holly.

Nesting - How You Can Help

  • Robins are not cavity nesters so they won't go for a birdhouse (except perhaps to build their nests on its flat roof). They tend to look for nesting spots like in a fork of tree branches, and then slap together a round nest made of straw and dried grasses with some mud to seal in the bottom. 
  • Provide them with a sturdy platform on which to build their nests. Place it about ten feet up (the approximate desired height according to my observations) in a sturdy fork in the branches of a tree or perhaps under the eaves of the top floor in your two-story house. Make sure the platform is in an area protected from winds, and not easily accessible to predators.
  • In spring and summer, keep a mud puddle available in your yard so the robins won't have to go far for mud with which to plaster the bottom of their nests [6].

Fun Facts about Robins:

  • Their size: According to The Sibley Guide to Birds, the American Robin (turdus migratorius), a subspecies of thrush, is a large bird at 10-inches in length, and weighing in at 2.7 ounces with a 17-inch wingspan [7]
  • Their coloring:  They are grayish-brown on their backs and wings with males having a bright orange-red chest and females having a paler, salmon-colored chest.  The juveniles have the pale coloring of females but with dark speckles on their chests [8]
  • According to 50states.com, the robin is the state bird of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Connecticut [9]

References:

  1. Attracting Birds to Your Backyard, a Rodale Organic Gardening Book by Sally Roth, copyright Rodale Press Inc, 1998. ISBN 0875968929, p. 206
  2. ibid, p.205
  3. ibid, p.206
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. The Sibley Guide to Birds, a National Audubon Society Book written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley, copyright by Chanticleer Press Inc., Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 2000. ISBN 0679451226, p. 403
  8. ibid
  9. 50states.com, article: "Official State Birds" found at http://www.50states.com/bird/ on 11/27/07.

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