One of our most popular garden birds, the robin is always a welcome visitor, especially in winter when his red breast brightens up the scene. The feisty little robin copes with the British winter. But it can be a struggle. When temperatures fall below freezing, the robin can lose up to 10% of his body weight in just one night. It’s easy to see why a good meal is always welcome, so let’s take a look at what robins eat.
What Do Robins Eat?
The Natural Diet
Insects and particularly beetles are probably the robins favourite food.
Robins eat with the seasons, and the diet varies throughout the year. In spring and summer insects, especially beetles, and earthworms are top choices on the menu.
This is why gardeners so often find robins following them around as they dig: they’re waiting for you to dig up dinner!
Worms and beetles are high in protein, gaining the robin the energy for breeding. They are also high in calcium, to help form the shells of the eggs they will be laying.
As summer gives way to autumn, insects become scarce, and as the ground becomes cold and, hard worms get difficult to dig for.
So at this time of year, the robin’s natural diet moves on to seeds, berries, fruit and nuts. The reason robins are so often pictured on holly bushes is that they love holly berries.
What To Feed Robins
Robins love mealworms. They are the closest thing we can offer to a beetle, and they will be quickly pecked up. If you are offering mealworms, do soak in warm water for a little while before you put them out. It will make them easier to eat.
Suet Balls and fat products are loved by many birds, and the robin is no exception. Especially in the winter, the fat helps them keep up their body weight and generate the energy they need to keep warm.
Crushed peanuts will also be welcomed. Robins will fight with the tits for these. Don’t offer whole peanuts though. Robins are small birds, and whole nuts are just too big. The same goes for whole sunflower seeds.
Kitchen Scraps to Feed Robins.
There are lots of things in your kitchen that robins will love, and adding these to your feeding routine adds variety, saves money and saves food waste.
Fruits – a bit of fruit, cut into small pieces will be loved by robins. Apples, pears, banana all go down well. Robins will happily eat grapes. Though these are so high in fructose, we would maybe limit how many we put out.
A little grated cheese offers welcome fats. Stick to mild cheddar.
And a few raisins or sultanas soaked in a little warm water will also be quickly gobbled up.
What Not To Feed Robins
Although cheese is fine, never put milk out for birds, Their stomachs don’t have the enzymes needed to digest lactose and milk can make them ill.
Likewise, avoid salty foods. Birds aren’t very good at digesting salt. So although crushed nuts are good, avoid salted or dry roasted nuts.
It’s also not the best idea to put bread, cake and other baked products out. Although this will fill them up, it doesn’t offer much nutritional content and can actually make them feel so full they fail to forage for the nutritious food they really need. Think of it avian junk food.
How to Feed Robins
Robins naturally forage on the ground for their food. They prefer to eat on a flat surface.
So they will be most at home on a ground feeder, with a bird table coming a close second. And of course, the table offers some protection from predators, especially if cats are a problem in your area.
They are just not built to feed hanging at an angle like tits. So they will usually ignore hanging feeders. This is a good reason to remember to put a fat ball or two on the table, where the robins will be able to enjoy them.
And don’t forget the water. Like all birds, robins need to drink and bathe. Keep your birdbath clean and topped up. In the winter, use a little water from the kettle to break up any ice. Never use salt in a birdbath to stop freezing.
Make Your Garden a Robin Restaurant
As well as offering the right food on your bird table, you can attract robins to your garden by focussing on natural food sources. Here are some of our top tips.
- Reduce your use of insecticide. Robins – and lots of other birds – love insects, so why not let them take care of that problem for you and cut down on your use of harmful chemicals.
- Plant shrubs with berries. Berries are a vital food source for robins in the autumn and winter. Check out our guide to which shrubs and best for berries for the birds.
- Cut some of your lawn short. Though having a wildflower meadow area in your garden will attract lots of insects, keeping an area of the lawn cut short makes it easier for robins to forage for worms.
- Water your lawn in the morning. In the summer, especially during a dry spell, watering your lawn will bring worms to the surface, and robins in for dinner.
So Now You Know What Robins Eat
So now you know what robins eat you can help them by adding a little extra to their diets throughout the year and by gardening to make the most of their natural food sources.
They are a lovely bird to have around and well worth the effort.
We hope you found this article useful and interesting, Do you have questions or suggestions? We would love to hear them. Leave us a comment below.
And for more garden bird reading check out our bird library here.