Robin Nestlings

2022 June 19

Our front door has a roofed-over area in front of it, with concrete pillars holding up the roof. And, right around the middle of May (2022), a robin decided that this would be a perfect place to build her nest. By the time we realized what she was up to, she had already laid some eggs, so we switched to going in and out of the house through the garage rather than spooking her every time we walked out the front door. Every now and then, she would take a break from sitting on her eggs, and Sandy managed to sneak in and get a picture of them while she wasn’t looking[1].

Most of the time, she would just sit on the eggs and give us the old “stink-eye” every time we got within 10 feet of the nest. This kept up for maybe two weeks, but then she suddenly started coming and going a lot, which I took to mean that the eggs had hatched. So, I slipped in and got this picture of her nestlings on May 27, when I think they were only a couple of days old.

They grew really fast. Here they are again, on May 30, just 3 days later:

And again 3 days after that, on June 2:

They were basically stuffed so tightly into the nest that their heads had to point practically straight up:

I think they knew I was there, but they didn’t seem too concerned:

Sandy and the girls said that they saw them standing on the edge of the nest shortly after this, and then two days later (June 4, 2022) they were all gone and the nest was empty.

So, anyway, 4 eggs = 4 fledglings flying away from the nest, so I’d say she did fine.

One thing to note: if you look at the first picture, the eggs were laying on a nice clean bed of grass. In the last picture, it looks like the nest was instead lined with mud. I don’t think that was actually mud. I think that this was where all their droppings went. Which would be why robins don’t re-use their nests. By the time the nestlings grow up, the whole nest has been converted to a dried block of robin poop.

You may note that the elapsed time after hatching was pretty short. They probably hatched on or about May 25, and less than 10 days later they had flown off to find their own food. This is part of the reason why robins are so common. They breed like crazy. Four birds in less than a month, and today (June 19) I think I saw another robin building a nest for a second batch of babies. Even this far north, that means they are raising at least two (possibly even three) broods every summer, so one pair of robins can raise up 8 -12 fledglings every year if conditions are good.

They may also benefit from building nests close to human structures. At least in our case, as long as the mother ignored our comings and goings, she had a nice secure nesting spot where no predators were likely to be hanging around (we don’t let our cats outside).

[1] Cell phone cameras are great for this. You can hold them up over your head and point them into the nest without getting too close, and be in and out in a few seconds. I don’t think she ever even knew that we were peeking at her nest. Although, if she did notice, it was kind of her own fault. She knew that we were walking around that area the whole time she was building the nest.

3 Responses
  1. Kathleen permalink
    June 20, 2022

    Robins don’t use re-use their nests? We’ve seen them
    come back to the same place many times, but they may be putting a new lining before laying. Watch this one- don’t remove it.

  2. June 23, 2022

    I’ve never seen a robin re-use their nest, although that doesn’t mean they won’t. Looking around online, though, the consensus is that they will sometimes build on top of an old nest, and will often come back to the same site if the nest is removed or deteriorates naturally, but they don’t actually re-use the nest. The Cornell Bird Lab says it is a good idea to clean out nest boxes at the end of the season, and that there is no need to preserve nests because the majority of birds don’t get any benefit from re-using them.

    Update as of June 26: And, instead of re-using the old nest site, the robin decided to build a new nest on the other support pillar beside our front door. Which suggests that even if they have a nest right there to use, they’d rather move over a bit and build a new one rather than re-use an old one.

  3. July 16, 2022

    We have a couple of ne’er-do-well sparrows who have re-used their nest many times. We built a bird house for them and put it on a roof pillar with some room behind it. Instead of using the nice, clean house, they built their own nest in the “alley” behind the bird house. I suspect it was to make drug dealing easier. They were that kind of bird.

    Anyway, after a few uses the thing was more poop than twigs, but they kept using it. Our estimated house value on Zillow dropped last month. Personally, I blame those sparrows. Who wants to buy in a neighborhood where the songbirds are dealing?

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