I live in the Northeastern region of the United States, and am an avid bird-lover. I love robins for their looks, and because they're harbingers of spring in my area. I thought robins were the same here and in Europe, but was recently told there are major differences. If the information I was given is correct, they don't even belong to the same family of bird!

I'm almost certain the majority of our robins are called American Robin.

If I were to go to a European country, would I recognize the physical characteristics of the robin there, or is the bird different enough that it would not look like a "robin" to me?

In addition to the appearance, are the basic behavioral characteristics, such as diet, preferred habitat, and nesting, similar, or are there significant differences in those also? Do the European robins ever migrate to America?


2 Answers 2


American Robin,

American Robin


European Robin

European Robin


They are from different families of birds,

The American robin (Turdus migratorius) is a migratory songbird of the thrush family. It is named after the European robin3 because of its reddish-orange breast, though the two species are not closely related, with the European robin belonging to the Old World flycatcher family.


The Old World flycatchers are a large family, the Muscicapidae, of small passerine birds mostly restricted to the Old World (Europe, Africa and Asia). These are mainly small arboreal insectivores, many of which, as the name implies, take their prey on the wing.


The thrushes are a family, Turdidae, of passerine birds with a worldwide distribution. The family was once much larger before the subfamily Saxicolinae, which includes the chats and European robins, was split out and moved to the Old World flycatchers. The thrushes are small to medium-sized ground living birds that feed on insects, other invertebrates and fruit.


  • 2
    And the European ones are harbingers of winter, in the UK at least.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 10:40
  • 3
    As @Spagirl says, they're seen in the UK as winter birds.Not, I think, that they're not around in the summer; more that other birds aren't around in the winter but robins are. Robins are often found on Christmas cards in the UK. (Christmas being in the winter in the UK.)
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 16:35
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    I believe that in most of Europe Robins are shy forest dwellers as opposed to the bold garden birds of the UK. This link supports that, though I suspect the reason may really be that we've less extensive forest with few wild boar. britishbirdlovers.co.uk/bird-brain/why-are-robins-so-friendly
    – Spagirl
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 17:05
  • @Spagirl It's interesting that robins are considered harbingers in both places, winter for the UK and spring for the USA. I guess people all over rely on them to announce the coming season. Also, that's an interesting article. I hope people check it out. Thanks! Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 22:28
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    Robins are native all year round and are around in spring, summer and winter. I'm not sure why they are associated with Winter, but they are definitely still around in the summer, etc.
    – user2766
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 12:33

Apparently American Robins migrate for the winter (hence the official name) but in reality they often don't and form 'nomadic flocks' that find good berry trees etc to live near in the cold months. But the British/European Robin is not migratory and always solitary (except when mated) and is always highly defensive of its personal territory. American Robins only become aggressive in the summer,during nesting months. This info triggered by my seeing a large flock of robins in my garden in California. I'm British and so it seemed very odd.

  • Welcome annie smart! Thanks for taking the time to provide this answer. I'm the one who wrote the question, and this answer really helped me, and will help a lot of other people too! Your information is accurate, and I really like the perspective of someone who's actually been with both of the types of bird! I hope you stay with us and have fun! Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 4:03
  • It seems that European Robin migrations depend on the region - in North-Western Russia, robins won't stay for winter.
    – Usurer
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 10:34
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    "but in reality they often don't" That is wildly inaccurate depending where you are from. Here in eastern Canada, I can guarantee you they ALL migrate south. In the warmer areas they can be seen year round, but in the northern nesting range, definitely not.
    – Gabriel
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 14:49
  • Here in south TX we normally do not see robins until they migrate south in winter. Annie is correct on one thing , they migrate in very loose, large flocks ; typically the flock is here a week , disappears a month then back again for a week. or so. They are here now . there are many berries, holly, nandina, etc. Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 15:20

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