Should You Feed Robins In Winter?

Robins are among the most popular garden birds because of their pretty appearance. For the most part, they show less shyness than other species. The “Red Robins”, as they are called by our bird-crazy British neighbors, often approach people during gardening to within a few centimeters and not infrequently hop around the rake while still working to snatch up startled insects, worms and spiders. But does it make sense to feed robins?

Should You Feed Robins In Winter?

The call of the robins

Male robins herald late winter with their cackling call as early as mid-January – when the majority of other garden birds are still silent. Their song lasts until mid-June. Only at the end of September and to November they let hear then again from itself. What hardly anyone knows is that the females also join in the birds’ autumn song. By the way, you can even set the clock according to the morning chirping: About 50 minutes before sunrise, Erithacus rubecula – its biological name – stretches its rust-red breast and raises its sonorous “zig, zig – zig, zig”.

The life of a robin is comparatively short, averaging little more than a year. 62 percent of a robin population dies within a year. By comparison, the figure is 52 percent for starlings and 42 percent for blackbirds. “This makes it all the more important for the popular robins to bring up two broods in April and June,” explains bird expert Christine Welzhofer from Gessertshausen in Bavaria.


Nesting aids for robins

In their ancestral habitat, the forest edge, the animals are at home in dense hedges, brambles and the like, where they build their spherical nests of grasses, moss and leaves in burrows, hollow tree stumps or earth overhangs. In our tidy gardens, robins are absolutely dependent on nesting aids.

So-called half-caves with an inner surface area of ten by ten centimeters are ideal. The entrance hole must be no more than ten centimeters from the bottom of the cavity. The nest is hung up to a maximum of one meter above the garden floor, preferably hidden cat-proof in niches of sheds or in dense hedges.


Feeding robins

There is still a widespread opinion that garden birds should only be fed in winter. The opposite is the case: robins and other species need food from humans during the rearing of young. Because tidy gardens not only offer the animals too little breeding space, but are also the cause of the lack of food. Feeding robins is therefore essential for the animals – and this can also be done decoratively.

Year-round food is now available in many specialty stores at any time of year. Robins belong to the so-called soft feeders and can be fed, for example, tender oatmeal coated with unrefined fat. Some feed mixes offer additional treats such as berries. Even more helpful is rearing food that includes insects. It is a pleasure to observe how eagerly the adult birds collect the food laid out for them in the garden or on the balcony and carry it – after securing a look – to the hidden nest with its usually five to six hungry beaks. So it is not only the big ones who benefit from feeding robins.

Besides the robin, the dunnock, wren and blackbird also prefer solid ground under their feet when feeding. You can make them particularly happy by scattering food on the ground. To ensure the best hygiene here, too, the following should be observed:

Always spread only small amounts of food.
Change the place frequently. 
Feed on paved surfaces that can be cleaned with hot water and possibly special cleaning fluids.

If you want to know even more about the pretty bird, take a look at our text about the robin’s way of life. And do you want to read in more detail about what is important when feeding birds? Then our article “Birds in winter: How to feed them properly” is something for you! We hope you enjoy reading, feeding and observing.

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