Robins Set Up House
The common Robin in the US, is a frequent visitor to my yard. And, I have to admit, though it may be the Red-Winged Blackbird that signifies Spring for others, for me it is the common American Robin that I look forward too seeing when Spring is upon us.
I remember one Spring I was talking to my brother-in-law and I mentioned as an afterthought, that I have some Robins in my backyard. What I didn't relay to him was that I saw not one, or two but possibly 20 plus robins in my yard. They come like clockwork to my ½ acre lot to fill up on earthworms and whatever insects that may be available at the time. They are definitely nice to see.
Anyway, for the last three years we have been able to have an up close look of family life when a pair of robins take up residence in the trellis outside our back bedroom window.
My husband and I will peek out from behind the blinds of the bedroom window to see how Mr. and Mrs. Robin are attending to their brood. It is rather interesting, to watch them roll the eggs daily (to help the bird inside develop) and then hatch. It is after the eggs crack open that we really get a first hand glimpse of the birds.
I like to share with you some information about the robin, it's habitat and nesting chores, along with some personal observations.
Where You Can See the American Robin
The American Robin occupy all of the US. Some will reside year around at a locale or fly off to their winter homes. As to the American Robin in Iowa, they only spend their summers with us before flying elsewhere to their winter homes,
A Robin's Nest
They will nest in shrubs, trees, on sheltered windowsills, and eaves. The nest you see to the right is a tree in my front yard. I was rather surprised that the nest was so low. But hey, it was an apple tree. Granted sometimes with the first brood the apples would not be ripe enough to eat. But trust me, that changes in short order. In fact, we find ourselves competing for apples with the birds.
The nest consists of twigs, coarse grass, paper, feathers, and then smeared with mud. Then for the finishing touch, they will place something soft on the bottom of the nest. One year I noticed a robin nest, softly cushioned with my dog’s hair cuttings as it’s cushion. I bet it helped to keep all the brood warm. If the nest is strongly made, it will be used my robins again.
After each feeding the nestlings will release their waste in white bundle referred as fecal sacs into the beak of the adult bird. It is these fecal sacs that the adult bird will either fly away with, or eat (naturemappingfoundations.org).
Why eliminate the poop bundles from the nest? There are several reasons: 1) To eliminate parasites; 2) Eliminate odor from the nest, and thus, keep predators away.
And as to eating the poop bundles, it is surmised that the adult Robin may eat it to obtain some needed nutrition.
Taking Care of The Young
They will have 3 to five eggs (The Robin family we were watching had 3). Mr. and Mrs. Robin will tend to the young and keep a vigilant eye out for predators. During the day both the male and female will be present. However, it is only during the day that the male will keep a vigilant eye over both the female and brood.
However, when night time comes, only the female will stay with the clutch. And the male, he will leave her to roost with the other robins.
Foraging For Food
When they forage for food on the ground, you will notice that they will stare at the ground, motionless to catch an earthworm. And I might add, a fight over an earthworm can happen if one robin feels a little lazy about catching his own meal.
Usually, I will see the robin(s) eating worms in the early morning when the grass is still damp. But don't think that is all they eat. They will also eat insects and fruits. And let me tell you, when it comes to fruit, there is a ready and convenient supply of fruit in our 1/2 acre lot. And I might add, my yard does make a great place for the robin to have a family.
Size and Color
The American Robin is a rather large bird. But yet, they don’t seem to be as intimidating. Maybe it is because of their warm-colored orange breast, and their chiseled black head and gray upper body that minimizes the size, and for me, the scare factor that maybe a crow would project.
Predators of the Robin
The young and the eggs are preyed upon by Grackles, Crows, Blue Jays and Ravens. And the adult Robin is preyed upon by cats, the Falcon, and Eagle. They are most vulnerable when breeding, but in a flock more eyes and ears are available to sound the warning when a predator approaches.
There is one other threat that the Robin has to deal with, and that is the Cowbird. The Cowbird will lay their eggs in the nest for the Robin to raise. What will the Robin do if she finds a strange egg in her nest. She will eject them from the next, now that is a smart bird.
Though the Robin is a common bird in our area, I find them not to be an invasive bird, I really do enjoy watching them during the day foraging for worms and gracing me with a song.
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