Do Robins Mate for Life?

Very few birds mate for their entire life, but many species remain monogamous to a particular bird for long periods. 

I have a particular penchant for robins and always hoped that my ‘Christopher’ and his chosen lady friend were the same couple, year-round. 

If like me, you question if robins mate for life, my findings might make you smile.

Robins aren’t one of the birds that mate for life, however, they spend much of their year as half of a breeding pair, especially when the winter is mild.

When their broods have successfully fledged, the robins go separate ways, but, they don’t stray too far apart and in rare occasions, might couple up again the following year to repeat the whole process. It is most likely if their first breeding attempt resulted in multiple healthy chicks.

If robins are so territorial within their species, how does a mated pair get together?

Male robins are fiercely territorial and are almost always sedentary. Once they have chosen a territory, they stay very close to that area for the majority of their lives. 

It is the female that will try to encroach on his space, usually at the turn of the year.

Initially, this might create a kerfuffle, but within a few short days, the male realises the signs of true love and becomes more accepting of her.

Robins split the work-load

Although the hen does all of the hard work building the nest, the cock remains close. The male feeds her incessantly, knowing that she needs to build her strength up for the imminent birth of their chicks.

Amazingly, 90% of a pregnant female robin’s bodyweight consists of the eggs. She needs to be strong enough to survive once they are born.

How many eggs do robins lay?

Robins lay one egg per day over 5 or 6 days. They spend 9-16 days in the nest and begin to fledge 10-15 days afterwards.

Once the chicks are well on their way to gaining their pilot’s licence, the female will hand over control and feeding duties to the male.

She will have free-time to rearrange or re-build their nest, in readiness for a second brood.

If previous broods have been successful, robins may attempt a third and very rarely, a fourth brood. The pair remain monogamous until their final babies have flown the nest, sometimes that’s as late as the end of July.

As their courtship ritual may have started as early as January, that’s a whole 7-months that the birds remain faithful to each other. That is quite a long time in birds with an average life span expectancy of 5-6 years.

The end of the story

The female leaves their joint territory and makes a new one of her own. She won’t move far, preferring to stay close to the place where she gave birth.

The option is open to meet with her original mate when the following breeding season rolls around. And here’s the happy ending that you were waiting for; it very occasionally happens!

Final thoughts

If a robin dies during the breeding season, the surviving bird replaces them as quickly as possible. The female has hungry mouths to feed and needs all of the help she can get.

Robins might not mate for life per se, but they spend a great deal of time together until all of their young are safe and able to care for themselves.

6 thoughts on “Do Robins Mate for Life?”

  1. This is a lovely, very personal description of robins. I had three robins which were almost tame getting so near me and arriving singing to attract my attention as soon as I stepped into the garden with my bird food. Then to my great sadness they disappeared. I know they had young to feed but there are cats all around and I can’t bear to think what might have happened. Also we had several magpies but I haven’t seen them for a week or two. I really hope my robins are ok. I just can’t cope with tragedy. Thank you for this lovely page.

    Reply
    • Don’t worry, they tend to disappear this time of year to build nests and sit on eggs, you will not see them as often and behaviour will change.

      Reply
  2. A Robin built a nest on top of my front door wreath. I have a cat that likes to hang out around my front door. Can I move the wreath with the nest to a nearby tree? I’m so afraid my cat will eat it or the birds will attack me when I go out the front door.

    Reply
    • If it built a nest it will be sitting on some eggs, best not to move it as the Robin could abandon the nest completely

      Reply
  3. There are 3 nests under my deck. Two are empty, probably from previous years. As every year, the pest control comes to spray for ants not realizing there were nests under there. Now I make sure they’re not harmed. I see two of them (robins) coming back and forth to the nest. Don’t know if the eggs have latched yet but Blue Jays seem to be a threat to them.

    Reply

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