Are robins a sign of spring?

Yesterday it was snowy. I looked up in a tree and here’s what I saw:

Robin on snowy branch.

American Robin in Winter

Yes, right there before my eyes was a robin.  In winter.  In the snow.

So I guess that must mean spring is coming, right?  Cause after all, robins are a sign of spring, right?

Nope.  Not right.

Although some robins do migrate, it’s more a matter of food availability than the weather.  Food is usually more scarce in the winter.  So some robins do migrate… but not all. 

Instead they tend to gather in large flocks during colder months, going to large communal roosts at night.  These flocks tend to stay in more rural areas where there is a better food supply.  Or sheltered in woods.  So although they may not be so readily seen in some places, especially in a more urban environment, there are still robins around.

Robin in winter.

Robin on snowy ground.

Robins aren’t that big on bird feeders for the most part either, being more prone to look for earthworms, insects, fruit and berries.  They will occasionally turn up at feeders for fruit, but since they aren’t there a lot, that may be another reason people don’t realize they are still around.

People probably notice them more in spring because of the breeding dispersal, as the flock breaks up for pairs of robins to go to their own nesting territory.  They are scattered into more places then, and people are also usually outside more to see them.

And of course, there ARE a few more robins, as the ones that DID migrate, come back to the area.  But that doesn’t make robins a sign of spring, since there are some around all year long.

If you want a real sign of spring from the bird world, look for ducks or geese or any other true migratory bird that regularly migrates to and from your area to make an appearance.  When they’re back in the area, ready for another nesting season, spring is on the way!

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  1. Well, you answered the question. 🙂
    We seldom get robins this far south. Our bird of impending Spring is the Cedar Waxwing. Not to say we don’t get walloped with a cold front after they appear, but spring is not long off when they do come our way.

  2. Oh poo! I think I’ve seen only 3 Robins around our house in our 3 years of living here. The third one I saw yesterday! I was so excited. Made me think of Spring even though we still have a foot of snow on the ground.
    Oh…and it’s snowing again today and supposed to snow tomorrow and Wednesday.
    At least seeing the Robin reminded me of warmer weather and springtime thoughts. sigh.

    Great photo by the way 🙂


    • Rural Writer says:

      Well Lisa, as long as they reminded you of spring… and in February in a ton of snow… that’s a plus! Glad you liked the pics.

  3. Bladerunner says:

    I saw an Anna’s hummingbird in downtown Portland, OR a few days ago. And today we were scraping ice off the windshields and trying desperately to see 10 feet ahead of us in the fog.

  4. Rural Writer says:

    I LOVE hummingbirds. I’ve never seen an Anna’s hummingbird, as they aren’t native to our part of the world. That’s pretty wild to see one and then be dealing with ice and fog!

  5. Here in North Florida, we have robins almost all winter. We know its spring when there aren’t so many of them. We listen for the sandhill cranes to tell us when warm weather is coming, since they migrate over our house.

  6. Rural Writer says:

    Makes sense that you’d get some of the migrating robins in Florida where it’s nice and warm most of the winter.

    I’d love to see a sandhill crane!

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