Ice Storms and Robins

Ice Storms and Robins

Do Robins stick around in Winter? Yes!

As I peruse Facebook to catch up on the birding sites, I notice that there are multiple people asking the same question as the winter hits. 

"Is it just me, or are the Robins not going south?"


"Why am I seeing so many Robins when they should be gone?"


While I believe it's happening more every year, Robins are one of the birds in Southern Ontario who don't all head south to warmer climes as winter approaches. 


What they do tend to do as the cold weather approaches and the insects disappear, is move deeper into the wooded areas and live off of the fruit left behind on the trees. When that crop disappears they tend to come out of the woods, usually in February, which generally coincides with some of the crappiest weather that we see in Southern Ontario. 


There are pro's and con's to living like this. One pro, are the few thaws from the bitter cold and snow we tend to get, revealing the earth beneath the snow, which thaws in the warmth of the sun to a certain minor degree. Usually just enough for the Robins to find themselves a good source of protein in insects that have previously been hibernating in the frozen soil.


The con to this is that the thaws typically don't last long, the temps drop, another foot of snow drops, and the Robin's food source has disappeared. Worse are the ice storms that can happen, putting a layer of armor over the precious source of protein. This is when Robins have it as tough as they come, and some just won't survive, depending on how brutal that particular February is.


This is a great time for human intervention. It's a rare sight for Robins to jump into a bird feeder during Spring, Summer and Fall, but in this freezing weather, this is a great time to come to the aid of Robins. Suet with insects built in is great to put out in a simple suet feeder, staked to the ground since Robins are generally ground feeders, although I'm betting a regular suet feeder staked to a tree with a steady perch would make them happy as well.


In a pinch, grapes, cut up apples or other fruits help them get through these cold spells, and even shredded cheese will help with its fat content in keeping them warm if you can't put out suet right away. Keep in mind that if you have dogs, grapes are not a good choice, unless you can raise them out of the dogs reach as they're toxic for them. 


So keep on eye on the weather during the cold months when you start to see Robins. Rather than being a harbinger of spring (it's a little soon in February around here!) they're just coming out to look for food they can't find in the woods.


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