With March, Robins on the Move

March 7, 2024 by Nancy Sheehan, Program Coordinator

The arrival of American Robins paints the landscape with bursts of color and melodies.

"I heard that people in my area were seeing robins, but I hadn't seen one. Luckily, I had my phone in hand this morning when I looked out at my birdbath to catch a robin drinking." Photo: Ellen in Eau Claire, WI (03/06/2024)

The Resilience of Robins

American Robins are resilient and can often survive in colder temperatures than other birds that migrate much longer distances, chasing warmer weather and plentiful food sources.

Yvonne in St. John's, Newfoundland shares an extraordinary moment on February 1st, as she witnesses a large flock of robins in her wintry garden. Despite the persistent snow and cold, these robust birds gather to feast on berries remaining on dog Berry trees. Their sudden appearance, numbering around 30-35 individuals, is as fleeting as it is mesmerizing, vanishing en masse shortly after.

The Complexity of the Seasonal Movements of Robins

March is the peak month for American Robin migration. Increasing day length triggers their internal clocks and urges them to take advantage of shifts in food availability. Migration, or the seasonal movements of American Robins, is complex. Studies have shown that most robins move at least 60 miles between summer and winter habitats, but some robins may migrate much farther. 

Watch for the first arrivals of robins in your area. Sometimes robins are heard rather than seen, so you may take those earbuds out to hear the first song of robins in spring. Typically, male robins lead the vanguard, scouting out prime breeding territories. As more robins join them, watch for changes in behavior such as nest building. 

First Arrivals

The interesting and complex seasonal movement of robin migration becomes evident as volunteers across North America document their observations.

In Ottawa, Ontario, Charles notes the early arrival of these feathered harbingers, appearing almost two weeks ahead of schedule. Similarly, Mary in Wayland, New York, is greeted by a delightful sight of two robins on her lawn, marking the onset of the season.

As the days progress, reports come in from various regions, each offering a unique glimpse into the unfolding spectacle.

Anne in Pierre, South Dakota, witnesses a solitary male robin, its vigorous cheeps signaling its presence.

Meanwhile, on March 1st, in Somers, Montana, Michael observed robins engaging in spirited displays of song and camaraderie. He added that this is the earliest sighting of robins he is witnessed in his area. 

On February 25th, Lynn in Lantzville, British Columbia, joyously welcomes the first robin to grace her yard, a symbol of the changing seasons.

Shifts in Diet

As the days get longer and snow cover melts away, watch for American Robins to diversify their diet and look for protein-rich food sources such as earthworms.

In Blossvale, New York, John delights in the sight of robins feasting on crab apples, a sure sign of spring's imminent arrival. Meanwhile, Sarah in Minneapolis, Minnesota, captures a snapshot of a bustling scene, with dozens of robins foraging amidst the foliage.

In Sandpoint, Idaho, Robbie marks the arrival of robins. On March 4th, Robbie recounts a surreal encounter with a multitude of these birds, their presence a stark contrast against the backdrop of snow-laden trees and frozen berries.

Nesting Behavior Already? Yes!

Beyond mere sightings, a few volunteers report nesting behaviors, providing invaluable insights into the onset of nesting in different regions.

On March 6th, Phil in Muncy, Pennsylvania, observes a robin gathering grasses for its nest, with a vigilant male keeping watch nearby.

Keep Reporting With Photos

As March progresses, each robin sighting serves as a reminder of nature's resilience and cyclical seasonal rhythms. Through the collective efforts of volunteers, we gain a deeper understanding of the movement, dietary shifts, and breeding behavior of the American Robin. With each flutter of wings and trill of song, the arrival of American Robins heralds the arrival of spring, offering hope and renewal to all who witness their journey.