Mama robin did it again! Our resident supermum raised a brood of three chicks over 28 days in May. We watched it all, as usual, from the comfort of our back deck and through the living room window which looks onto the nest site. It makes it easy to spot the comings and goings of the robin family. I learnt a few new things this time around about the robin’s baby-raising skills.
Here is a run-down of the dates for this early spring brood:
April 25 – first egg laid in the new nest (in exactly the same spot as last year’s nest). Three eggs in total were laid, one each morning: April 25, 26, 27.
[14 days incubation]
[May 9 – the babies started hatching. They hatch in the same order that they were laid.
[14 days as chicks in the nest]
May 23 – the last two flew the nest. They all leave more or less together.
The robin is the largest of the north american thrushes. Females build the nest from the inside out, using the wrist of a wing to press grass into a cup shape. They add mud to keep the grass together which is presumably why they build their nests on rainy days. Our robin seems to leave the nest for a few days once built – probably to let it dry out.
Once the three eggs were laid, mama robin stayed on the nest more or less constantly. We watched her turn the eggs periodically with her beak and fly off to eat, but she was usually sitting on those eggs all day and all night. Last year, she left for extended trips away from the nest and I wondered how the eggs and chicks survived. But she didn’t do that this time. Even once the chicks had hatched (and for about 7 or 8 days afterwards) she was usually sitting on the nest. I wonder if it was colder this time around (it is earlier in the year than our 2013 broods).
I haven’t noticed daddy robin being involved very much in the feeding of the chicks, although according to the experts they can be. Male robins have a darker head and slightly less vibrant red breasts. The male this time around seemed taller and skinnier, too. The only time i noticed him feeding the chicks was the day before they flew the nest. He flew in as mama robin was leaving and brought food. Maybe he’s been around more, but I haven’t realised it was him. I’ll pay more attention to this next time.
We all dislike cleaning up after our kids, right? Well, I’m pleased i wasn’t born a robin. Every time one of the babies is fed a juicy worm or caterpillar they poop. And the mama robin catches the poop in her beak and flies off with it. She seems to eat it actually. I watched this mesmerized and horrified many times. About half an hour after the babies left the nest for good, I watched the female robin fly back to it and clean it out. I couldn’t tell what she was eating, but she spent a while pecking and eating whatever was left in there – presumably poop. The nest is completely spotless inside now. Amazing.
We watched the last two babies leave the nest. Just after breakfast I noticed the speckled chicks were standing on the rim of the nest so Milo and I went outside to take a picture. The final photo! But as we came out the door, we must have startled them and they flew right over our heads. Their first flight! One of them pooped and the projectile narrowly missed Milo’s head. The speckled back and breast of the chicks will give them some camouflage for a couple of weeks until they are fully grown. Both mum and dad will continue to feed them out in the world for another two weeks. I think I’ve seen mum tweeting to the others out on the field with a big worm in her mouth.
i am guessing in another few weeks she will be back to lay another set of eggs.