You have likely heard the old idiom, "The early bird gets the worm" - a phrase most often associated with the robin. American Robins (Turdus migratorius) always seem to be the first ones up-and-at-it in the morning, flitting from perch to the ground, catching earthworms, and serenading the rest of us as we wake up. You have probably watched this very scene play out from your living room window.
If you have had the pleasure of watching robins, you likely know that they eat worms. But did you know worms only make up a small percentage of their diets?
American Robins actually consume more fruits and berries than anything else. They also eat a variety of true bugs, caterpillars, beetles, spiders, and a few things that might surprise you.
Read on to discover more about the robin's diet, hunting habits, and how you can attract these fascinating birds to your back door!
American Robin eating a berry from a tree
In the wild, robins are best known for eating earthworms, beetles, and caterpillars. However, their diets are significantly more varied than this. Robins also regularly enjoy spiders, flies, termites, snails, millipedes, centipedes, and a variety of berries and fruits.
On a less frequent, and somewhat more surprising, basis, robins have been known to catch and eat garter snakes as long as eight inches. They have also been observed picking up marine vertebrae along beaches and snatching up trout fry.
American Robin pulling a worm from the ground during summer
A robin’s winter diet consists mainly of berries and fruit. Fruit is an excellent source of energy for these birds in winter because it is so calorie-dense.
Robins are nomadic during the winter, traveling about in a flock as they forage for leftover summer berries, including blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Holly berries, apples, and strawberries are also favorites of these birds.
As the temperatures drop and the long summer days begin to wane in the fall, robins make the switch from supplementing their diet with worms and insects to almost exclusively seeking out fruits and berries.
This time of year, insects, worms, and other bugs are much less active above ground and thus harder, or nearly impossible, for robins to find.
American Robin foraging for berries
Robins, like most birds, use their sharp eyesight for hunting. From flight or while perched, they can see worms on the ground or near the surface of their tunnels. Sight is not the only sense powerful enough to make robins excellent hunters, though. They also have a keen sense of hearing, which they use to single out earthworms digging underground or to find other bugs moving about.
Baby robins eat mainly earthworms in the first days after hatching. Parents will break the worm into small mouthfuls suitable for the nestlings to swallow.
Slowly the parents increase the sizes and amounts until the babies are eating whole worms and insects on their own. After about thirteen days the fledgeling robins are ready to leave the nest.
American Robin feeding chicks with a mouthful of earthworms
If you would like to feed wild robins, provide them with mealworms, berries, and chopped apples. Robins do not eat birdseed, so they are unlikely to be interested in your feeders. They also prefer to forage for their food on the ground, in open areas. You can scatter the mealworms, berries, or chopped fruit around the base of your bird feeder.
Robins will also eat various other fresh or frozen berries, including blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Any time you have an excess of fruit, you can put it out for the robins.
Robins drink water and they like to drink and bath regularly. That said, another great way to attract the robin to your yard is to provide a birdbath. They will utilize a store-bought bath with misters and fountains, but robins are also drawn to small ponds where they can bathe as well as collect mud for nest building.
American Robin drinking fresh water from a bird bath
Robins have numerous predators, including birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and shrikes. Bobcats and foxes will also hunt these birds.
A robin’s babies are vulnerable as well. Crows and blue jays will often take eggs or even babies once they are hatched. Domesticated cats pose a threat also, as they will climb trees and shrubs to reach nests.
To attract robins to your yard, it is important to provide the food sources they like and a source of water for drinking and bathing. Robins are not attracted to birdseed, so you will want to supply plenty of fruit and berries. You can also offer mealworms, fresh or dried.
To create a more natural space for the robins in your area, you can plant berry bushes and shrubs, grapevines, holly trees, and other native fruiting plants. Ensuring you have nutrient-rich soil can also increase the earthworm population in your yard, which will, in turn, attract more robins.
American Robin enjoying an orange on a feeder in the backyard
Robins will utilize open trays, platforms, or dish feeders. They are natural ground foragers, though, so ultimately they may prefer to have their food scattered in open spaces around your yard.
Although robins are not attracted to birdseed, they can occasionally be tempted by suet chunks or nuggets, as well as hulled sunflower seed, jelly, and mealworms.
Robins do not eat birdseed. They prefer foraging for worms, insects, fruits, and berries.
Robins will occasionally sample hulled sunflower seeds. If you want to attract them to your yard or bird feeders, though, it is best to provide fruits, berries, or mealworms.
Robins eat a variety of berries, both in the wild and those provided by humans. Some of the berries on a robin's menu include blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and holly berries.
American Robin perched
Robins do eat fruit. It is a key part of their winter diet because it is calorie-dense and rich in nutrients.
Robins will eat grapes. They will often pick them straight off the vine. You can also provide grapes for robins at your bird feeder.
Robins will eat apples. This is a fruit they would be familiar with and eat in the wild. You can also leave out apple chunks for robins to attract them to your feeders.
Robins will occasionally eat dried mealworms when provided. These are best served with fresh fruit and hulled sunflower seeds.
American Robin eating berries from a snow covered tree during winter
Robins will eat holly berries when they are available. Berries such as these make up a large portion of a robin's diet.
Yes, robins will eat strawberries. Strawberries are another favored berry of this bird. They will often forage for them in the wild.
Robins do not eat bananas. Bananas are not a fruit they would encounter naturally, so robins are unlikely to be attracted to them.
In winter, robins are more likely to travel in flocks for safety. If you notice an abundance of robins on your lawn, you likely have a good food source for the entire flock.
As well as feeding earthworms to their young, Robins will also eat them all the time for themselves. Worms in general are a fairly significant part of an American Robins diet and they can catch up to 20 per hour.
These expert worm catchers can remarkably ingest up to 14 feet of earthworms in a single day alone!
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