What Do Baby Robins Eat? Should I Feed A Baby Robin?

The American Robin is an iconic bird, associated with both the cheer and new life cycles of spring and with winter festivities. Amongst the scientific community, it might be referred to by its binomial nomenclature: Turdus migratorius. However, to the rest of us, this beautiful species is more commonly known simply as the robin, or red robin, due to its vivid breast plumage. 

While the mature American Robin is a fairly common sight year-round, it’s much more of a rare occurrence to see a baby robin. That’s because baby robins are very fragile as newborns and rely entirely on their parents to feed them and keep them safe until about 12 or 13 days of age, at which point, they become fledglings. 

In today’s article, we will be answering the question ‘what do baby robins eat?’ and breaking down the typical baby robin’s diet across the first few weeks post-hatching.

What do American Robins eat?

When it is nesting, the robin will increase the amount of worms and insects that it consumes. It will then regurgitate these to give to the hatchlings. It is important that the young birds receive a lot of protein in order for them to grow.

During non-breeding periods, the American Robin eats a range of worms, insects, berries and fruits.

What do Baby Robins Eat?

When a baby robin is in the earliest stages of its life, it can be referred to as a hatchling robin. The newborn period refers to the first week after the baby robin hatches from its egg. 

During this time, hatchling robins rely entirely on their parents to meet their nutritional needs. In fact, the parent robins are totally responsible for taking care of the hatchlings in every way because they are completely unable to fend for themselves when they’re born. The proper term for this state of being is ‘altricial’. 

You might think that being so small and helpless, baby robins might have small appetites. However, the complete opposite is true. Baby robins go from tiny, defenseless hatchlings to fairly robust fledglings in a matter of a couple of weeks, and part of the reason for this is that they’re incredibly demanding from day one in terms of feeding. The parents end up feeding baby birds until they are exhausted.

During their first days, baby robins consume food regurgitated directly into their mouths by their parents. This might sound unpleasant, but it’s a really important part of the feeding process because hatchling robins aren’t ready for solid food during the first few days. 

Photo by the lost ninja

How Often Do The Baby Birds Eat? 

We’ve mentioned that newborn robins are demanding, but the frequency with which they need to be fed might surprise you! 

The average parent robin makes anywhere between 100 and 150 return trips to and from the nest each day during the first week post-hatching. That amounts to a trip roughly every 10 minutes!

Baby robins eat so frequently because their stomachs are so small and because they absorb nutrients quickly so they can grow quickly. It is all about survival.

The Newborn Baby Diet: Week 2 

The baby robin’s diet changes slightly once they enter their second week of life. 

At this point, the baby robin is still completely dependent on its parents because it isn’t physically strong enough to leave the nest yet. 

However, by this life stage, baby robins can open their eyes (this happens around day 5) and don’t need to rely on hearing and feeling their parents’ movements to know when it’s time to eat. Given that these important developments have happened by week 2, it’s understandable that their dietary needs also shift a little at this time. 

After just a week, baby robins should already be significantly larger than they were at the time of hatching. Usually, this means that they are ready to start eating pieces of solid food by week 2. 

Photo by Eric Cormier

Although a week-old baby robin won’t be able to manage an entire earthworm, for example, its parents will break down full-sized earthworms into bite-sized chunks for their babies to eat.

Earthworms are one of the robin’s main sources of protein, which is essential for growth, so worms are a really important part of the baby robin’s early diet. 

Aside from the shift from liquid to solid food, the baby robin’s diet remains mostly the same, consisting of worms, insects, berries, and fruit. 

Baby Robins Diet: Week 3 

By the end of week 2 (day 13), baby robins are called fledglings rather than hatchlings, and they are ready to start learning how to fly. 

At this stage in their development, fledglings don’t need food directly fed to them anymore, but since it’s still difficult for them to leave the nest, the parent robins will leave food inside the nest and let the babies help themselves.

What do Fledging Robins Feed On?

However, it typically takes a few days for the juvenile American Robins to get the hang of flying and start to gain real independence. Therefore, the parent robins will continue to support the fledglings. During that time the fledglings may still be fed whole worms and large insects.

What do Juvenile American Robins Eat?

The young robin is now independent and has likely been disowned by the parents. This sounds harsh but if the parents keep feeding the young bird, it will never forage for itself. It has to become independent in order to survive. However, they do quickly learn where to find worms and how to locate the best berries.

Finding Baby Robins: Should You Feed Them? 

Photo by Mariuslaurentiu Butan

When you’re out and about in nature, you might come across a baby robin, either on its own or with its siblings. If you can’t see their mother, you might wonder whether there’s anything you can or should do to help. 

The answer to this question ultimately depends on several factors, including the age of the baby bird and how long they have been on their own. 

In the following section, we’ll be covering three different types of situations involving a lone baby robin, and explaining how to assess each set of circumstances and respond appropriately.

Remember, even the best of intentions can have detrimental consequences if you don’t have the relevant information, so it’s very important to learn how and when to interact with baby robins before taking any action. 

The Orphaned Baby Robin – Should I Feed It?

An orphaned baby bird is probably one of the saddest sights to see, but if you come across a baby robin or a nest of baby robins that seem to have been abandoned, it’s important to stay as rational as possible. 

First, you need to determine whether the baby robin or robins have actually been orphaned. While your instinct might be to take immediate action to help these defenseless baby birds, it’s best to simply play the waiting game at first.

If there is no sign of the mother or father robin within the next few hours, it’s unlikely that they will be coming back. Parent robins don’t tend to leave their nests for very long, and if they do, it’s usually because of contact with a predator (or human) or because they are lost and can’t find their nest. 

If you found the nest on the floor, you can be even more certain that the parent birds won’t be returning since robins usually can’t locate their nests once they have fallen onto the ground. 

Now that you’ve ensured that the baby robin has definitely been abandoned, it’s time to take action. If you don’t feel that you can care for the baby robin(s) yourself, you have the option of handing them over to your local animal rescue organization. 

However, if the baby or babies are older, strong and healthy and don’t seem to be in any immediate danger, there’s no reason why you can’t take over their care yourself if you want to. You should seek advice from the animal rescue people.

Hand raising baby birds is incredibly difficult and if you are inexperienced then they are likely to die.

The Fallen Baby Robin – Should I Make A Nest?

Another potential situation you might encounter is a baby robin that seems to have fallen from its nest. Again, this can be a distressing sight to witness, but try to stay calm. 

First, make sure that the baby robin is a nestling and not a fledgling. You can distinguish between nestlings and fledglings. Fledglings have more developed feathers, whereas nestlings will either be featherless if they are newborns or have very downy, light feathers if they’re slightly older. 

If the baby bird does not appear to be injured, the next step is to try and locate its nest. Usually, finding a hatchling or nestling outside its nest indicates that it has fallen or inadvertently been pushed out of the nest.

The parent birds are unlikely to be able to find their lost baby in this case, and the nestling won’t have the eyesight or flying ability to find its way home. In most cases, though, the nest will be nearby, and you might be able to spot it.

With that being said, you might not always be able to find the nest, in which case, the next best thing is to create one. Get a container such as a Tupperware box and fill it with dry leaves or straw. 

Place the baby bird inside and leave the nest somewhere secure and as high up as possible in a nearby tree. This will make it more likely that the parents will see or hear their baby and come to the rescue. 

If, after an hour, the parents haven’t returned, you’ll need to either call your local animal rescue center. 

The Fledgling Baby Robin – What Do These Robins Eat?

We mentioned the importance of distinguishing between nestling and fledgling robins earlier. That’s because you should NOT physically interact with a fledgling robin if you find one on its own. 

Fledgling robins are in the process of learning how to be independent. Sometimes, that means that they’ll end up outside their nests, and even on the ground when flying attempts are unsuccessful. This is totally normal and part of their developmental journey. 

Although you might have only good intentions when stepping in to help a fledgling robin, it’s likely that their parents are close by and you could actually disrupt the learning process by doing so. 

The only time you should get involved with a fledgling robin is if the bird is injured, in which case, your local wildlife rescue service should be your first port of call. 

Photo by Chakraa Photography

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Color Are Baby Robins?

If you’re not an avid bird watcher, you might struggle to figure out what type of baby bird you’ve come across. After all, the baby robin, like most baby birds, is born without feathers and is almost entirely pink. 

When baby robins do develop feathers, they are brown and speckled. 

Why Do Robin Parents Abandon Their Babies?

Robins are typically very dedicated parents, so abandonment is not expected from this species. However, there are certain extreme circumstances when a robin might leave its babies behind. 

If the nest has been threatened by a predator, or other disturbances have demonstrated to the mother robin that the young have a poor chance of survival, she might take flight and not return. However, this is still much less likely with robins than many other bird species. 

Do Young Robins Stay With Their Parents?

No, some species of bird remain with their parents to help raise the next lot of chicks. The American Robin is not one of those birds. These robins stay only until they can look after themselves.

Final Thoughts 

In summary, baby robins survive on a diet of worms, insects, fruit, and berries. At first, this diet is fed directly to the nestlings by the parent birds, in liquid form. 

After the first few days, the parents begin to feed the baby birds solid chunks of the same foods before finally leaving the food in the nest for the (now fledgling) babies to find. 

Fledglings are growing in independence but still stay close to the parents for extra food and care.