GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — People around West Michigan are seeing a whole lot of robins at the bird feeder this winter, and an animal behavior expert says it is likely because of the mild winter we've had so far this year.
For the past 2 or 3 weeks viewers have been reaching out to FOX 17 saying that for the first time in several years they have been noticing robins out at their bird feeders.
On Tuesday we went out to visit the folks at Wildlife Rehab Center on the northwest side of Grand Rapids to find out what was going on.
"Sometimes they're early, sometimes you don't see them until springtime, and then sometimes you'll see a lot of them up here," Peg Markle, founder and operator of Wildlife Rehab Center, said.
But, Markle added, “We did last week have a robin at the bird bath, which really surprised me.”
She says there have been a number of people calling the center asking about why they're seeing so many robins this winter.
“When birds migrate, they'll go as far south until they can find food and open water,” Markle said.
"If they can find open water, like creeks or streams, and then dig in the mud for bugs...sometimes they stay.”
Because of the mild winter we had throughout West Michigan until the beginning of February, she says for many of the migrating robins, Michigan was as far as they had to go.
But with the recent snowfall, the robins still here may now be having trouble finding food and water.
“It's just too cold; they can't find enough food so they can build up some energy, you know, to stay warm,” Markle said.
“We may lose some; they might be starving to death.”
She says the best way to help the robins make it through the tough winter months is to put out water (in a heated bird bath if you have access to one) and food. She suggests putting out some blueberries or dog food.
A standard bird feeder or block of suet can go a long way in terms of providing nutrients as well.
Markle said there are lots of different birds in West Michigan that can struggle during the colder months of the winter.