American Robin – The Endless Quest for Food

A pair of American Robins built a nest on top of the electric meter at our house. For just over a month we watched (and worried) while the parents hunted for food (an endless quest), protected the nest, and raised their two chicks.

We were very careful to keep our distance for the entire time, but it soon became apparent that the robins did not fear us. Sometimes when I was waiting to photograph them, one of the robins would hop by within a few feet of me. On one occasion I put a few worms on the deck while the mother watched me. After I had returned to my camera, the female flew down and picked up the worms.

The nerve-wracking part came when the babies fledged. They were safe in the nest at supper time, and an hour or so later they were gone. I told The Car Guy that I wasn’t going to worry about them. Sure…

The next day, I spotted the male robin on the fence with a mouthful of food. It wasn’t hard to follow his movements as he flew into the caragana bush to feed one of the babies. There were hawks in the sky. A big grey cat stalked through the yard. I worried.

I didn’t see any sign of the robin family for another week or so, but was optimistic that they had simply moved next door where the food might be more plentiful. Then, the berries on one of our trees ripened, and all sorts of birds started to gorge – including two baby robins! My baby robins – or so I hoped.

Robins have an extremely high rate of nest fidelity. I know “nest fidelity” sounds like an investment group, but it actually means that robins regularly return to the same breeding site each season.
– Bird Watcher’s General Store –

Will momma robin try to build her nest on top of the electric meter again next year? If she does, can I resist the temptation to spend more time in the garden unearthing worms for them?

The Feather Files
Name: American Robin
Species: Turdus migratorius
Native to and Migration: The Robin breeds north to Alaska, across Canada, and southward to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the United States and into southern Mexico. Northern populations migrate.
Date Seen: June, 2016
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Quest.

14 comments

    • Thank you! It took a while to get the photos in the right order. I uploaded them all at once, and WordPress inserted them into the gallery in no particular order!

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  1. This post brought back memories to me. Last Spring I followed three Robin families … one in the Park where I walk every day, one in a neighborhood near the Park and one at my friend’s home in Richmond, Virginia. I watched the Park and neighborhood fledglings and some came to see me, a little wobbly at first and I got some close-ups. I’m not a professional photographer, just a walker who totes along a camera on her walks (thought I’ve been trying to use my DSLR more than the compact). The third family was a treat as they built their nest, like yours, near an electric meter on her back porch. Every day my friend would take a picture with her phone and send it to me. Every few days I’d do a gallery of their photos to show their amazing progress from scrawny hatchlings to fully-feathered chicks. Near to the time they would have fledged (14 days) a large black snake got into the nest … one of the chicks we think made it to safety, because Evelyn saw the mother push it into the shrubbery. One was gone and the other in the snake’s mouth. She grabbed the snake with a rake, dropped it into a big flower pot and put a garbage can lid on it and took it to the end of the street in her residential neighborhood. She never knew if the third chick survived or not. I felt like I was there as did the people who had followed the growth of all three families of robins.

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    • Predators – that’s the downside of watching a bird raise a family, isn’t it! We don’t have snakes here, but between the raptors and the ravens, the baby birds will be vulnerable. I guess that’s why the robins have several batches of babies a season.

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      • Yes, it was upsetting to my friend to witness it, and she e-mailed me right away to tell me. You mention the multiple clutches of robin eggs per year – there were originally four eggs in this nest, only three hatched and the mother robin tossed the unhatched egg out of the nest. We figure she knew it would not hatch as it had been two days after the others hatched. I only have garter snakes around here and I’ve never seen one. Evelyn is used to dealing with snakes, but her husband will cringe at the sight of them and leaves it up to her to handle them. These long black snakes like to sun on the railing of her back porch. I’d likely have a heart attack if I went out the door and saw that. She simply wrangles it with a rake and carries it down the street, sometimes still curled around the rake. We don’t have ravens (that I know of), but in the last few years, right here in the City, we had Peregrine Falcons and now have Cooper’s Hawks. In fact, walking home from the Park this morning, I saw three hawks circling overhead. The sun was in my eyes and the only shot I got was from far away.
        I see them in my neighborhood as well – I don’t like that as they’ll prey on the squirrels whom I interact with at the Park, I “get” the cycle of life, but it is very cruel sometimes.

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        • I’m hopeful the owls and Cooper’s Hawks around here DO prey on the squirrels. Our squirrels are the ‘imported from somewhere else’ variety and they are driving out the native squirrels…

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          • Well we have a lot of the larger Fox Squirrels. I had a gray squirrel I started feeding last Fall, just a few peanuts here and there and he began waiting for me to return from my walk and give him peanuts.
            Pretty soon, two small black squirrels started waiting on me too. I started putting their peanuts on the porch every morning and that brought cardinals and blue jays swooping in for peanuts. That was all good, and I had some nice photos of them waiting for me to put out treats then coming to the porch. Then a Fox Squirrel got piggy and wanted everything for himself. If the gray or black squirrels tried to grab one peanut, he’d chase after them and chased them into the street. I was fond of the gray squirrel especially and named him Grady. He was very timid because of his size. I didn’t want to see him get run over by a car, so I stopped feeding all of them. Yesterday I saw Grady and offered some peanuts and have done that if I saw him the yard, but he ignores me now. So someone always has to ruin it for others – in the human world or in the animal world. I am going to write about Grady this week. I did several posts about the “porch critters” in the Winter and never mentioned that I stopped. I only intended to feed them until Spring anyway – we had a very cold early Spring. One fellow blogger who does not have squirrels in her country, was particularly interested in Grady and asked about him. I got some close-up shots of him yesterday up in his tree where his nest is. He was very wary of me.

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      • Margy – I think you’d like looking at this site. I has been making the rounds on the Audubon and other birding sites. It’s about 20 miles from where I lived and this photographer (Jocelyn Anderson) came upon a pair of Sandhill Cranes raising a gosling as their own. She gives a brief description at the top, then the posts go in reverse chronological order. They will really give you a smile. The softer side of nature …
        https://jocelynandersonphotographyshop.com/pages/sandhill-crane-family-with-adopted-gosling

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          • Isn’t it incredible how Jocelyn has captured them growing up together. The mother does not differentiate between the two yet. I was surprised the gosling took a peck at Jocelyn’s leg yesterday. Good question about what will be eaten, though it may not matter once each of them are totally fending for themselves. That might be tricky come migration time. A fellow blogger lives in Nebraska and every April, around the middle of the month, there is a huge group of cranes (thousands) that fly into the Platte River Valley area for a few days. He has gone there to photograph them.
            They did a story on Sixty Minutes about this Sandhill Crane Migration in Nebraska and there are so many there is a blur in the sky.

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