The American Robin is a common bird across the country. From forests and mountains to backyards and parks, robins have adapted to many urban and suburban environments. For many of us, seeing them appear on the lawn is one of the first signs of spring. For those of you who wonder how to attract robins to your yard, we have six simple tips to help bring these lovely songbirds closer to home.
How To Attract Robins To Your Yard
1. Provide A Water Source
While all birds need water to drink and bathe, robins have been known to stop for a bath several times a day. So providing a water source for them is a great way to get them to visit your yard. In my yard, robins are definitely one of the most common visitors to the bird bath.
Any type of birdbath, such as this popular pedestal bath from Amazon, will work fine.
But you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a fancy bath. A large plastic plant saucer or trash can lid filled with water will still be perfectly inviting to a robin. Just make sure the basin you offer is large enough for their body. You probably wouldn’t want to do too much smaller than a 10-12 inch diameter.
Winter tip: a heated bird bath can keep robins coming year round.
2. Encourage Insects
In the spring and summer months when insects are plentiful, they make up the majority of a robin’s diet. Earthworms, grubs, insects and snails are commonly found on their menu. Therefore having a yard that encourages this food source will attract robins.
Robins are used to foraging on the forest floor, picking through leaves and ground cover searching for bugs. You can mimic some of this good foraging habitat by leaving some areas of your yard wild, having sections of grass you don’t mow, leaving leaf litter along the edges of your yard, etc.
3. Don’t Treat Your Lawn With Pesticides
Along with the tips in #2 above, avoiding pesticide use on your lawn can be a big help. In fact, hopping around a lawn looking for worms is one of the most common places people see robins.
Using pesticides can not only kill worms and grubs that provide food for the robins, but can also potentially harm the robins if they eat contaminated worms from your yard. Unless you are treating a really significant insect infestation issue, consider letting your yard exist a little more naturally and skip the insect control, or try to find organic and non-toxic options.
4. Plant Berry Producing Trees & Bushes
As fall turns to winter, insects become less abundant and worms can’t be pulled from frozen ground. Robins shift their diet include lots of fruits and berries.
By plantings native bushes, trees and shrubs that provide berries in the fall and winter season, you can help feed robins through the colder months. While it is true that a population of robins in the north head to the southern U.S. for the winter, some robins do remain for the whole year.
Some plants to consider include: juniper, hackberry, buckthorn, serviceberry, chokecherry, hawthorn, dogwood and sumac. As always, stick with what is native to your area. For help, visit here to check Audubon’s native plant database.
5. Offer Mealworms or Fruit
Robins don’t typically eat birdseed and are unlikely to visit your feeders. However there are certain foods you can offer that may attract them.
Because robins are insect eaters, they are very fond of mealworms. Live mealworms would probably work best, and are better nutritionally, but I have seen robins eat the dried variety too. Just remember robins are big and might not fit at the same feeders you use to feed your bluebirds. Try using something that provides a nice open surface such as a platform feeder, ground feeder, or even just a dish or shallow tray.
Fruit and Berries
Since robins also eat fruit, you can try offering that in a dish or platform as well. Grapes, blueberries, blackberries, currents, apples, strawberry and raisins are good choices. Just make sure the pieces aren’t too large, many of those fruits you would need to cut up.
*Tip: try putting out this food near a water source to get them to notice. Once they are returning regularly to eat the food, you can slowly move it to a different location if you choose.
6. Offer Materials for Nesting
Robins are one species that isn’t afraid to nest close to your house. They build cup shaped nests out of grasses, twigs and mud. There are several ways you can encourage robins to nest in your area.
Having trees and dense shrubs in your yard can increase your chances. Robins often like to build nest in tree forks, or the interior of dense shrubs.
Robins also like to nest build on ledges. Window ledges, window planters and gutter bends are common spots. You can also purchase a nesting ledge and hang it around your house, preferably in an area where there isn’t much foot traffic and will get some privacy (for example, don’t put it close to a door you go in and out of all the time).
Keep your yard supplied with materials that robins will be looking for when nest building. Leave grass clippings, twig piles and pine needles around the yard. Once a robin has build the nest cup out of these dry materials, she will reinforce it by coating the inside with mud. They can transport the mud to their nest by carrying clumps of mud-covered vegetation, dropping it in the nest and then pressing it down.
If there is a small area of your yard with dirt and leaves, you can add water to it daily to keep it damp and muddy for the robins. Some people take trash can lids, add some leaves, dirt and water to create muddy puddles.
Robins are a common bird across most of the United States. While you usually can’t lure them to your yard with a bird feeder like many other species, there are still many things you can do to make your yard attractive to them. Offering water, fruiting plants, lawns full of worms and places to nest are all great ways to bring this quintessential American bird close to home.