Many of us take the time to feed our birds with countless bags of seed and fat balls in the winter. But, this approach isn’t going to work for all garden bird species. The Robin is a good example as it needs an alternative menu to get through the winter. So, what do Robins eat in winter and what can we do to make things easier for them?
During winter and in its natural habitat, the European Robin eats insects and fruit of varying varieties. However, unlike other birds, the European Robin will prefer to pick up scraps from under any feeder. Here is a list of the food that the European Robin likes to eat in winter:
- Small pieces of fruit
- Small berries
- Small pieces of cheese
- Peanut butter
These are just some of the foods that many people like to put out specifically for the Robin in the U.K., but there are many others. So, if you are in the U.S., will the American Robin eat the same? Read on to find out!
What Do European Robins Eat In Winter?
You will notice that your friendly neighbourhood robins don’t come and perch on your bird feeders in the same way as our other feathered friends. Instead, they will forage for food and take a variety of insects and scraps.
Robins need a good diet of nutritional food from as many different sources as they can find. Where possible, we can help enhance their diets with supplemental feeding.
With our help, robins can thrive in the winter. Here you will learn about some of the great sources of food that we can provide, including a few surprises.
Why Do Robins Not Eat From Bird Feeders?
You might assume that you can just set up a bird feeder with peanuts and lots of birdseed and that will be fine for all species visiting the garden. But, that is not the case.
Robins won’t use bird feeders because they don’t suit their feeding habits or abilities. For a start, their beaks aren’t equipped for breaking open the shells of seeds. There is also a lot of competition for space on their feeders. That is why they prefer to be on the ground foraging for leftovers, insects, fruit, and anything else they can find.
What Should You Feed Your Robins In Winter?
Just because Robins don’t use bird feeders, that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate supplemental feeding. There are different ways to provide this in a garden. For example, you could scatter food on the ground where they naturally look for food underneath a feeding station.
This option depends on whether you are OK with small mammals finding the food instead. The alternative is to place items upon a bird table. The food you offer needs to be high in energy and other nutrients. Here are 5 great examples that they should enjoy:
- Mealworms. This is a staple of many bird tables and the protein and fat content of these insects goes a long way. Dried will work where you don’t want to use live ones.
- Fruit. Robins will forage for fallen fruits where they can, but they may be in short supply in the dead of winter. Some chopped-up apples and a few raisins could go down well.
- Berries. Berries may be harder to supply if you don’t grow your own. But, they are easy packets of energy for small birds.
- Cheese. A little mild grated cheddar can go a long way for garden birds in winter. You may want to add this to a homemade fat ball mixture and put this on your bird table instead.
- Peanut butter. This option depends on the product and how much you use. But a little bit smeared on a tree stump could help wildlife get some much-needed energy.
Remember that these are best used in moderation before you go mad with piles of human food on bird tables. The fat content in a little bit of cheese goes a long way, and Robins can process dairy. But, it could be dangerous if there is too much fat or salt.
The same is true for peanut butter which may have a high sugar content. Human food can also contain a range of other elements like preservatives and additives that aren’t ideal for wild animals in large amounts. If you are in doubt about something, don’t use it.
What Does The American Robin Eat In Winter?
The European Robin has an American cousin that looks quite different. In the U.K., we are used to seeing a small songbird with that orange-red breast, but in the U.S., there is a larger bird with brighter red on the chest and underside and grey around head and wings.
Although different in appearance, the European and American Robin have very similar habits when looking for scraps of food in the winter. These birds will also benefit from supplemental fruit and insects where they can find it and the fatty human foods in moderation.
Growing Food For Robins.
The habits of the American Robin and the love of berries and fruit with both species lead to another important consideration. In addition to providing food on tables or via ground feeding, you can also make an effect to provide more natural resources.
Some argue that natural supplies are better for birds, so they don’t become too reliant on handouts from humans. For example, you can grow shrubs and trees with juicy berries in the winter or leave some fruits behind from your fruit trees to share the harvest.
Make Sure Your Robins Have Access To Water.
Finally, it is vital to ensure that in addition to all this extra food, your local Robins have access to plenty of water too. Water could become scarce in the bird’s territory, depending on the conditions.
So, water sources like ponds and birdbaths are a must, even if it is just a small container of water rather than something ornamental. But you need to make sure they don’t freeze over.
A ball floating in the water does the trick. Also, make sure there is easy access to the water’s edge with no safety risks.
Look After Your Robin Friends Over Winter.
With some thought and planning, it isn’t hard to provide some help for the robins in our gardens over the winter. We can work on cultivating trees and other plants that produce tasty fruits, make the garden a haven for insects, and bring in extra food supplies where necessary.
If you aren’t confident about using human food like cheese and peanut butter, stick with a good menu of fruit and mealworms. After all, every tiny morsel makes a difference in a cold winter.