Leaving the Nest: Robins Take Flight

If you’ve kept up with my posts about our nesting robins, you’ve probably been wondering about the conclusion to the story. I’d been so sure they were going to leave on the weekend of the 27th/28th. They seemed to be getting too big to fit in the nest, but they managed to stay in there through the weekend. Although on Sunday night I could only see two of them, so I wondered if the first had already flown the coop, so to speak.

Two babies on July 29, the day before they left the nest

Two babies on July 29, the day before they left the nest

On Tuesday morning (July 30) I didn’t check the nest until about 10 am. Too late, the nest was completely empty!  I was so disappointed that I wasn’t able to see their first flights, but as soon as I saw that they’d fledged I ran outside with my camera to look for them.

I quickly found the mama bringing a worm to one of the fledglings in a smaller tree only a few feet from the nest tree. Then I saw another of the fledglings nearby. I never saw all three of them at once though. I knew the parents and babies would be nervous on this first day out of the nest, so I didn’t get too close or stay too long. I managed to get one good picture of a youngster with his short stubby tail:

First day out of the nest

First day out of the nest — time to grow some tail feathers!

Their tails don’t grow out until they leave the nest, probably because there’s no room in the confined space for those long feathers. And I’m sure that’s why they can’t fly well for the first week or two. I love those little stubby-tailed babies, don’t you?

An empty nest

An empty nest

It’s a bit of a letdown to see the empty nest when I look out the kitchen window now. I’d grown so accustomed to having to step around the spotting scope on its tripod in front of the sink, and checking up on them throughout each day.

I hope they’re surviving out there; I’ll probably never know. And the second robin’s nest on a branch over the garage? I see very little activity at that nest. I did see babies at one point, and have seen the female adult standing on the nest edge, but lately I don’t see much going on there. I can’t be sure what’s happened yet, but I’ll keep watching it for a while.

It’s been so much fun having the robins raise their family in a spot where we could easily watch them. I’ve learned a lot about the lives of these often-overlooked common birds. I’ve seen how the female does the hard and dirty work of building the nest, how she sits on those eggs through thunderstorms and unbearable heat, and how she and her mate run themselves ragged bringing food to hungry babies for the last two weeks. I watched them bring a variety of offerings to the gaping mouths: berries, grasshoppers, and worms.

I even learned something about earthworms. One day after a fishing trip, Eric dumped his leftover worms under the nest tree to help the parents feed their babies.  Coincidentally, I had just read a blog which had a link to this article by Rebecca Deatsman. It explains that the earthworms in the northern parts of the country are not natives but are introduced species, and why that matters to some ground-nesting birds. I encourage you to read it if you’re curious. But whether they’re natives or not, those fishing worms clearly provide vital nourishment for our native robins.

I find it so fascinating to learn about the interconnectedness (is that a word?) of the plants and animals I find while exploring the natural world. Every species plays a role in the ecosystem, and the presence or absence of each one has a ripple effect through the entire system. If you’re someone who loves learning for its own sake — like me — you’ll appreciate how curiosity about one thing often leads to learning about another, and how much fun it can be to discover something new about how the world works.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about two books I’ve really loved recently: Bringing Nature Home and Field Guide to Eastern Forests. The first one gave me a “light bulb” moment when it made clear to me, finally, why it’s important to use native plants in our yards and gardens. I’d “known” for years that it was important, but never truly understood the reasons for that importance. This book made it all crystal clear. Maybe soon I can write more about it here (or you can read the book yourself — I highly recommend it). And the Peterson Guide to Eastern Forests is helping me understand which types of trees and plants grow in specific areas, and how each habitat changes with the seasons. Things you either think you already know, or things you never thought to even consider…I just love it. Maybe I seem like a dorky bookworm to some of you, but I make no apologies. After all, what good is knowledge if you don’t share it, right? 🙂

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4 Responses to Leaving the Nest: Robins Take Flight

  1. Having the robin nest where you could watch them so closely was almost like your own “staycation!” No need to pay big dollars to go off on some holiday when you had entertainment in your own backyard. 🙂

    You will probably look at every robin in your yard over the next year and wonder if it is one of the babies. Thanks for sharing your backyard birds with us.

  2. Littlesundog says:

    You will never be a dorky bookworm!! I have loved every book suggestion you’ve sent my way!

    Do you have bird baths around? I always have juvenile robins at my birth baths. I have three homespun trays perched about 4 feet off the ground and every summer the juvenile robins come to hang out. I guess they really love the water.

    Ever since we took in Daisy, we have been more aware of native trees and plants, and allow everything to grow, that wants to. Even poison ivy. Deer actually eat poison ivy! I don’t kill off tree stumps anymore either. The suckers that grow off the stump are some of the most sought after leaves by deer (fresh, young shoots). I have observed that the more weeds I allow to grow, the more birds and deer we attract. We no longer cut down dead trees, but leave them for snags for woodpeckers. Everything has a purpose. I love that our ten acres provides a great habitat for wildlife of all sorts.

    • Kim says:

      Lori, yes, we have two birdbaths and the robin are really entertaining in there. But for some reason we haven’t seen too much use of it lately. Maybe because of all the rain we’ve been having this “summer” there are plenty of other water sources around for them.

      Interesting that you’ve noticed more wildlife as you’ve left your property more natural. When we first moved onto our wooded two acres we fought the urge to clean up all the dead trees and fallen branches, and I’m glad. We have tons of woodpeckers and flickers here that love those dead trees. Every time we have to take a tree down for some reason I feel a sense of loss. We’re just hoping the woods will rejuvenate themselves naturally when space opens up for sunlight to reach the saplings. But in the meantime we’ve added three evergreens to the open areas of the yard this year, hoping to provide some more winter roosting places for birds. If we ever leave this place I’ll really miss having all the animals so near every day. (As I write this I’m watching a hen turkey pecking around in the mulch below the bird feeders, just outside my dining room window. My cat Mickey is sitting there watching her, too funny.)

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