Robins are everywhere. What gives?


I've been getting a lot of questions about all the robins around Boise. So, I went to Idaho Fish and Game and here's an explanation:

A lot of people don’t realize that robins can be found year around in Boise.

The robins that breed here in the summer probably move south, and the north Idaho and Canada robins probably come here for the winter, said Rex Sallabanks, wildlife diversity program manager for Idaho Fish and Game.

Robins also change their feeding habits in winter. Instead of feasting on insects, they switch to berries. They go crazy for the Russian olive berries in our neighborhood.

The reason you suddenly see a large flock all at once is that they change from solitary feeders to flock feeders in winter, Sallabanks said. They will travel around in large flocks and eat fruit off a tree until it is gone and then move on, he said.

Sallabanks suspects that this cold snap has also brought in robins that live in foothills and forests to town for a better food supply. Up there, they eat juniper berries and the cold weather brought them down to find other fruit trees.

“They are fat looking probably because their feathers are puffed out to keep warm (much like down jackets make us look fat),” he said. The more air they can keep between their bodies and the outside feather layer, the better they warm up that air, keeping them warm.

Technically, they are probably a little leaner this time of year because keeping warm uses a lot of energy and fruit has very little protein content, he said.

Photo by Pete Zimowsky/Idaho Statesman

So, instead of robins being a sign of spring, maybe they are a sign of winter.

Canadian Geese

And what about the Canadian geese? I noticed they are scrambling to find food in this cold weather. They seem to feast on grass, but with all the snow on the ground, that is not available in plentiful supply. Any thoughts on whether there is enough food for Canadian geese?

Digging through snow

I'm seeing them dig through the snow to the grass. They are also congregating where the snow has evaporated leaving the grass open.

Geese are grazers and you'll see them on open grass on the golf courses. There is plenty of grass for them in Boise, despite the snow cover.

Canadian Geese

Do you know if Canadian Geese eat bird seed? I wondered about feeding them that to help them out.

thanks for the explanation!

I saw a robin on my hoarfrost-covered apricot tree -- right next to a Russian olive thicket, as it happens -- the other day, and I was wondering.

I saw a *ton* of Canada geese flying north the other day, too.


I believe you have previously said that you live in the Kuna area....We are near SR Birds of prey and on Friday I saw at least 400 Canadian honkers fly right over my house....looked like they came out of your area....Beautiful site but out of that many....there are a few that feel the need to "bomb" the area...if ya know what I mean....



I was over by Edwards, near the mall, at the time.

I heard them two days ago and was very surprised.

Do they see an early spring?

I hope it's rainy as heck!


People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.