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Where do American Robins spend the winter - Does the robin signal spring?

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

The American Robin does not abandon any state in the lower 48 for the winter. This common misconception has led many to call the American Robin 'the harbinger of spring.'

American Robin in winter
An American Robin hunts for invertebrates.

I'm not trying to burst any bubbles, but occasionally, we must take inaccurate information and thoroughly smack it with an informative article until nothing remains. Today, I am attempting to destroy the myth that the American Robin does not winter in many northern states. If you live in Canada or Alaska, this post does not apply to you. For everyone else, this is a graphic-heavy post where the maps do the talking for me.


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If you do not know how to identify the American Robin, check this video out!


American Robin Range Map

Range Map of the American Robin
Range Map of the American Robin

The American Robin is a thrush species found in various habitats throughout North America. Seven recognized subspecies range from residents in southern Mexico to migratory populations in northern Alaska. Note: the "Year-round" or resident occurrence designation (purple) does not mean the same individual birds are present year-round. The year-round designation indicates that the species is present in that location, regardless of the season. So, if you live in central Nebraska, the birds that nest on your gutters may not be the same birds that live in your berry trees in January. For most of the south, especially the I-10 states, Florida to Southern California, the American Robin is experienced only during winter. Though, a few individuals may stick around much of the year.

 

American Robins are not easy to attract to bird feeders. HOWEVER, if you want to try, mealworms are your best bet.

A bag a mealworms for attracting birds
 

Winter Range of the American Robin

Winter Range of the American Robin
Winter Range Map of the American Robin

In the map above, the non-breeding abundance of the American Robin is provided. No single state in the Lower 48 does not host American Robins in the non-breeding season (December through February) and several provinces of Canada.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count trends (below) also point to fewer birds wintering in the Gulf states and the desert southwest states of the United States. More birds appear to be spending a significant amount of time in the northern regions during the winter months. Mild winter temperatures, more available food sources, and unusual weather patterns likely contribute to this seasonal change.


Abundance Trends for the American Robin

American Robin Relative Abundance Trends by State
American Robin Relative Abundance Trends by State

This map above indicates that birdwatchers are likely to see more American Robins each year if they live in the northern states. Those living in the southern states will see fewer robins each year. The data comes from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, which applies especially to the winter months.

 

Get better at bird identification in North America!

Zach holding The Crossley ID Guides: Eastern and Western Birds

 

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