American Robins are among the liveliest users of birdbaths—any small bit of water, for that matter–of any birds I know. I especially like this photo, which captures the vigorous dowsing they often undertake. Young robins often leave the nest (fledge) before they are even vaguely good flyers. You might catch a glimpse of one moving around on the ground near low shrubs in the summer. It’s not unusual for folks to want to capture these sorry looking little critters and get them some help. But really, their parents are generally close by, keeping an eye on them and feeding them for a few days as the kids figure out all that flying stuff. If you come across one, just escort it to the shelter of a bush in the vicinity and let the adults handle it. Really. The photo to the right shows a rather disheveled-looking recent fledgling, still sporting bits of natal down on its head.
We were graced by a nest of robins under the roof of our patio one summer—mid-June, to be a bit more precise. At least to my eye, it seemed like a terrific spot—sheltered from rains and major winds, pretty safe from predators. (All of these photos were taken through our kitchen window. Not the greatest quality (click on any photo to see a larger version), but we worked very hard to disturb her as little as possible. And it made washing dishes more fun than usual for a few weeks—something very fun to look at!) It took the female about a week to construct it. It was clearly her 2nd nesting of the season, since when I first noticed her building the next, a fledgling was following her around, begging for food. The male was around quite a bit of the time, especially once the female started incubating the eggs. He frequently hung out on the section of the porch just to the left of the nest. The patio is sandstone and got pretty hot several days. But they didn’t seem very bothered by the heat; they both just did a lot of open-mouth breathing. (In the photo above right, the male is standing on the left; the female, on the nest.)
By the 2nd week of July, the 3 nestlings were really getting big. July 14th was fledging day. In the photo on the left, you can see the oldest nestling out of the nest along with the smallest nestling. (That little dude’s story would not end well—it was just too small.) The oldest fledgling launched itself, and then there were 2. Unfortunately, the 2nd dude out of the nest took off about an hour after the 1st one did, leaving one last nestling who stuck around the rest of the day. (That 2nd fellow could have used at least another day or 2 in the nest.) As evening was falling, I heard a commotion of robins’ alarm calls coming from our neighbors’ yard behind us. I peeked over the fence and saw their 2 labs turning the little dude into a chew toy. Our neighbors rescued it and I tried to do what I could for it. But it died overneight. And unfortunately (again!), the 3rd nestling took its parents’ alarm calls as a signal to leave the nest—at dusk. Ugh. Not a good time for a young bird to first take to the ground. (Robins often fledge before they can fly much at all.) However, it took some good flaps and made it to ground cover. So all I could do was wish it well. The porch seemed very empty for a good number of weeks after that.