Or Did They Ever Even Really Leave?

I’ve been having a lot of conversations on twitter and on Facebook about spring, most of them along the line of Will it ever get here? It was a very long, cold winter. And the northeast is bracing for another big snowstorm tomorrow, and this is what leads to our feelings of dismay. Will spring EVER come?

But many people have noted that one of their biggest signs that spring really is coming is that the Robins have returned.

But actually, the Robins never really left. They just change their behavior in the winter so we don’t notice them as much.

Every child knows that Robins eat worms. But they also eat lots of other things, too like insects, grubs, and even snails. We tend to notice them around our wildlife gardens because they hunt for these things on the ground. But they also eat fruit, which they search for in trees and shrubs, which is not where we’re used to seeing them.

When winter comes, the worms and insects aren’t as available to them, so during the cold months their diet consists mostly of fruit.

You may not be seeing them in your garden, so you think they’ve gone away, but Robins are year-round residents of the lower 48 states. During the winter months Robins gather together into huge flocks, sometimes numbering hundreds or even thousands of birds.

And they fly around in these flocks in search of fruit. When they find it, the whole flock will descend and strip every berry from the trees and shrubs that they find, often in a single afternoon.

So, if you want to see Robins in winter, plan now to add fruiting and berrying native shrubs and trees to your wildlife garden now. So by next winter you’ll have something to offer these fun and friendly birds.

Good choices include: American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Cranberry Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum), and Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Ask at your local native plant nursery which berrying shrubs will work best for the conditions in your garden.

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