Robin is a common name for many members of the songbird order Passeriformes. These birds are classified into three different families found worldwide except in South America and Antarctica.
American Robins in North America are in the Turdidae family; Australasian Robins in Australia and the Pacific Islands are in the Petroicidae family; and European Robins in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia are in the Muscicapidae family.
None of the world’s robin species mate for life. Instead, these birds are seasonally monogamous, meaning they stay with one mate for one breeding season and likely find a different mate during the following year’s breeding season.
Robins usually return to the same nesting area annually to find a mate and breed. Occasionally, a robin female chooses a male mate from the previous breeding season, but it occurs infrequently and may not happen every year.
When Do Robins Mate?
Throughout their range, robins mate during the spring. In the Northern Hemisphere, the breeding season starts in February, March, or April, depending on the latitude. Robins in the Southern Hemisphere breed from July to December.
In places with mild winter temperatures, robins may start breeding as early as January. Robins produce multiple broods each year with the same mate they selected at the beginning of the mating season.
How Do Robins Mate?
American Robin males arrive at the nesting site before females and pick out a territory to defend. When females arrive, male robins court females by singing songs to attract their mates.
After a female accepts a male as her mate, he will bring her food and feed her. This process bonds the pair more closely and allows the female to spend more time building the nest and incubating the eggs.
The female does most of the work to build the small, cup-shaped nest out of twigs, grasses, and mud, while the male spends much of his time protecting their territory from other robins and hunting for food for the female.
Male robins mate with females by standing on their backs and rubbing their cloacas together to transfer sperm to the female and her eggs. This process happens quickly and ensures fertilization occurs before the female lays the egg in the nest.
How Often Do Robins Mate?
Robins often produce more than one brood per season. The birds that nest in places with longer summers may have three or four broods. Those farther north usually only have time to produce two. Robins finish nesting in August, molt, then migrate to warmer places for the winter.
Robins mate several times during the days when females are laying eggs. This frequency ensures the eggs are all fertilized before she lays them. Females lay one egg per day for an average of four days, although the number varies from three to seven eggs per brood.
Once the young robins fledge after about two weeks, the male robins typically take over the care of the young until they are independent, while the female immediately begins raising a new brood. The sooner they start breeding each year, the more babies they raise.
What Happens if a Robin Loses Its Mate?
Because male and female robins do not mate for life, they find a new mate at the beginning of each breeding season. They do not actively seek out a previous mate, although they will mate with the same bird. If they do not find their previous mate, they will find a new one.
If a male robin loses its mate during the breeding season, he immediately looks for a new mate if there is still time to produce a brood of offspring. If not, he will molt, migrate, and find a new mate the following year.
When a female robin loses her mate, she loses the ability to care for herself and her young. If she does not immediately find a new male in her territory to replace the old one, she may abandon the nest and find a new male if there is time in the season to produce a new brood.
Do Robins Mate With Other Species?
American and European robins contain several subspecies capable of interbreeding with one another, although many of the subspecies do not have overlapping breeding grounds. The subspecies that do overlap interbreed freely and produce offspring that can reproduce.
Australasian Robins have 51 species that are in 19 different genera. Across the genera, species do not intermingle because they are too genetically distant to provide viable offspring; however, species within the genera can hybridize and may produce viable offspring.