Most Abundant Landbird in the United States and Canada

Caitlin Dempsey

Updated:

The American robin (Turdus migratorius) holds the title of the most populous landbird in the United States and Canada. This widespread bird from the thrush family can be found inhabiting many different types of ecosystems and backyards of North America.

American Robins are well-adapted to both urban and rural environments. They are commonly seen in city parks, suburban gardens, and rural farmlands. Their ability to thrive in diverse settings contributes to their widespread presence across the continent.

Habitat of the American robin

The American robin is highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from forests and woodlands to urban parks and suburban gardens. Their distribution extends from the treeline in Alaska and northern Canada down to Central America during the winter months. Robins prefer areas with ample open ground for foraging and trees or shrubs for nesting.

In urban environments, American Robins have successfully adapted to human presence, often seen hopping across lawns in search of worms or nesting in trees and shrubs within residential areas. This adaptability has contributed significantly to their widespread population.


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An American robin on a tree branch.
An American robin in the coastal redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

How many American robins are there in the United States and Canada?

According to the Partners in Flight database, there are 370 million American robins in the United States and Canada. Of those 168,330,000 are found in Canada and 198,905,900 in the United States.

American robins are found in almost every U.S. state

The American Robin is a year-round resident in many parts of the United States, particularly in the eastern states, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of California. These areas provide ample food supplies and suitable nesting sites throughout the year. 

In the northern parts of their range, such as in Alaska, northern New England, and the northern Midwest, American Robins are migratory. They spend the breeding season in these areas and migrate southward to avoid the harsh winter conditions. During the winter, these birds can be found in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. 

Hawaii is the only U.S. state with no American robin population

The only U.S. state where American robins are not found is Hawaii. The primary reason American Robins are not found in Hawaii is the state’s geographical isolation. Located in the central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is approximately 2,400 miles from the nearest continental landmass. This vast distance poses a significant barrier to the natural migration and colonization of many mainland bird species, including the American Robin.

Alaska has the most American robins

Robins are found throughout Alaska, with their habitat range extending as far north as the Arctic. Many Alaskan robins are short-distance migrants wintering along the West Coast, but the majority migrate further south.  The longer-distance American robin migrants overwinter in the southernmost U.S. states, Mexico, and Central America.

A bart chart with medium red bars showing the estimate number of American robins by US state.
The estimated population of American robins by state. Data: Partners in Flight, 2020. Chart: Caitlin Dempsey.

Florida has the smallest U.S. population of American robins

The state of Florida has an estimated 1,900 American robins. This state is an overwintering ground for American robins.

Behavior and Diet of the American robin

American Robins are primarily ground foragers, feeding on a diet that consists of earthworms, insects, and a variety of fruits and berries. Their diet changes with the seasons; during the breeding season, they predominantly consume invertebrates, which provide the necessary protein for raising their young. In the fall and winter, their diet shifts towards fruits and berries.

A pair of American robins eating red berries on a tree.
A pair of American robins eating berries from a pistache tree in Northern California. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

These birds are known for their distinctive foraging behavior, where they run a short distance, stop abruptly, and then tilt their heads to listen for the sounds of earthworms moving underground. This behavior makes them a common and easily recognizable sight on lawns and fields.

As insectivores, they help control insect populations, including pests that can damage crops and gardens. Their diet of fruits and berries also makes them important seed dispersers, aiding in the propagation of various plant species.

Migration Patterns of the American robin

American Robins are migratory birds, with populations in the northern parts of their range moving southward during the winter months. However, not all robins migrate; some populations in milder climates remain year-round residents.

The migratory behavior of American Robins is influenced by food availability rather than temperature alone. As a result, they can be seen in various regions throughout the year, depending on the local conditions.

During migration, American Robins travel in large flocks, often stopping in areas with abundant food sources. Their migratory patterns contribute to their widespread presence across the continent.

References

Partners in Flight. 2020. Population Estimates Database, version 3.1.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.