- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
Regular breeding resident and migrant statewide; regularly observed throughout the state during the winter months depending on weather conditions and food availability. The American Robin was a very abundant species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA) and was the most frequently reported species.
The American Robin’s breeding distribution extends across most of North America, from northern Alaska south across Canada and the United States and south to the central interior of Mexico. During the summer, the species is absent from the very southern regions of California, Texas, and Florida. Abundant throughout much of their breeding range, robins reach some of their highest densities in the north-central states (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 5/20 by Partners in Flight.
A short- to medium-distance migrant; most of Minnesota’s breeding robins winter in the southern United States and Mexico.
Omnivorous, foraging on the ground and in trees and shrubs.
Open-cup nest placed in a tree or shrub 1.5 to 8 meters above the ground. A variety of building structures may also be used, including windowsills, mailboxes, and fence posts.
In Minnesota, the American Robin has been considered an abundant breeding resident throughout the state since the late 1800s (Roberts 1932). Describing it as one of the “most beloved” of all Minnesota birds, Roberts commented that the robin “has thoroughly adjusted itself to civilized conditions and has come to prefer our lawns, gardens, and orchards to the wilder places. It is, however, not unknown in the depths of the northern forests where it seems strangely out of place.” The species’ abundance in the western grasslands was less clear. All but one of the 17 counties where confirmed or inferred nesting reports were available were confined to the forested regions of the state and the northwest aspen parklands. Abundant during the summer’s breeding season, even during the early 1900s, some robins were known to overwinter, especially in southern Minnesota.
As did many who wrote early accounts of North American birds, Roberts devoted a significant portion of his writing to the economic value of the species. The American Robin was often maligned for its consumption of commercial fruit crops. But Roberts reported that the U.S. Biological Survey, upon completing a thorough investigation of the species’ food habits, had concluded that the American Robin was a beneficial species “because it destroys such vast numbers of cutworms, grubs, and other injurious insects.”
In 1975, Green and Janssen reported that the species was a summer resident “throughout the state, from the prairie to the dense northern forests.” Janssen (1987) included a distribution map in his updated account that identified 52 counties where nesting had been confirmed since 1970. By 1998, nesting had been documented in 20 additional counties (Hertzel and Janssen 1998). The Minnesota Biological Survey further confirmed the robin’s statewide abundance (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016).
MNBBA participants reported a total of 10,227 American Robin records in 85.3% (4,213/4,940) of the surveyed atlas blocks and in 97.4% (2,276/2,337) of the priority blocks. Breeding evidence was confirmed in 30.5% (1,509/4,940) of the surveyed blocks (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). The birds were observed in all 87 counties, and breeding was confirmed in all 87 counties. The birds were equally distributed across all of Minnesota’s ecological provinces.
The MNBBA predicted distribution map (Figure 4) depicts moderate densities of breeding birds can be found, with few exceptions, statewide. Higher breeding densities are invariably associated with metropolitan areas and small communities, especially in southeastern Minnesota.
Little appears to have changed regarding the American Robin’s distribution and abundance in Minnesota during the past 100 years. The same is true in states throughout the Upper Midwest (e.g., Cutright et al. 2006; Chartier et al. 2013; Rodewald et al. 2016). Overall, the species’ distribution and abundance have increased with the planting of trees associated with farmsteads in the grasslands and residential developments throughout North America. The establishment of earthworm populations in many western states also enabled the robin to expand its range both southward and westward over the years (Vanderhoff et al. 2016).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.