Back in the day the robins flew south for the winter and didn’t reappear until the first of March, often being the first harbingers of spring….
We rarely saw robins in winter until the late 70s and early 80s when it began to be noted that larger, chunkier robins seemed to be arriving in December and January. After a while it was determined that these were not our own summer robins but robins that traveled down from farther north to feast on our berries and enjoy our usually milder winters. If the winter was very harsh these robins continued south but many years they hung around.
Here on the Cape we have many things northern robins enjoy besides a milder climate. We have tons of berry laden bushes and trees and robins love berries. They especially love cedar but will move on to holly berries as well.
Some years there are so many winter robins that huge roosts of many thousands form, especially in the Sandwich and Barnstable area. Other years, like this year, there are lots and lots of robins around but the roosts are not quite as large. Some people speculate that this is because there is plenty of food available over a broad area so the birds spread out more.
If you have been out this week near any sort of trees or shrubs with berries you know there are lots of robins around. People ask me a lot if they are robins that are back early or what is bringing them here. No, they are not back early–those thinner, smaller and migration weary robins will be back as usual the first week of March. These heftier guys will either hang around while the weather is good for them and return to their own homes in the spring or they will head farther south if the weather hits a cold patch here. Like many wintering species, these birds are pretty opportunistic and will go where the food is and where the roosting is safest and warmest.
In the meantime, enjoy the ongoing robin show for it is in full force right now with dozens and dozens of birds showing up in lots of yards and other places.
Keep your eyes and ears open for often they are accompanied by other berry eating birds like the lovely cedar waxwings…
I hope this helps answer some of those robins in winter questions….