Life & death in the Wild Kingdom – Robin Update

Robin Nest EmptyOne day, I looked past my computer screen, out the window to the front lawn, where a smallish bird pecked away at the wood chips under a Redbud tree. At that exact moment, a Red-tailed hawk swooped down out of the sky and captured the smaller bird in its talons. The hawk remained on the ground for the time it took to look around, then it flew off, the smaller bird firmly in its claws. If the smaller bird was not already dead, there’s no doubt it would be soon. The whole event took less than 10 seconds.

Wow! We had an episode of Wild Kingdom right in our yard. Excited by what I’d seen, I rushed to tell my husband.

We had another episode of Wild Kingdom in our yard yesterday.  Yesterday morning, I peeked at the robin nest on my bathroom windowsill, hoping as I did each day to see the eggs start to hatch. The eggs were still intact though the robin was away getting breakfast. That whole “early bird” thing. I went about my day.

That afternoon, I took another peek at the nest. Not only was the robin gone, but the nest was empty! All the eggs gone, no doubt to a predator bird. Possibly a Blue Jay. We have many of those in our yard and they’re known for robbing nests. 

As one reader pointed out, the window sill was a very exposed site. Perhaps the robin was a first-time mother, choosing the site for it’s warmth rather than safety. Since robins nest two or more times a year, perhaps she’ll come back to this nest or she may choose another site.  My husband agreed we’ll leave the nest where it is, just to see.

Nesting in a more protected site.

Nesting in a more protected site.

Looking for solace from our loss, I want to check on the nest on the downspout under the eaves. As I stood looking at that nest, which unfortunately I cannot see into, the mama robin arrived with a worm in her beak. The wide-open mouths of baby robins stretched above the edge of the nest and Mama shared the bounty. Having served lunch, Mama settled into the nest to keep the young warm while they napped.

I’m hopeful for this nest, protected as it is by the eave, downspout and corner of the house. But even that is no guarantee. My husband had a nest in just such a position on a downspout at his shop. The eggs hatched, the young were headed toward fledging. At that point, a hawk swooped in and robbed the nest. No robin has chosen that site since.

As another reader reminded me, reproduction is a numbers game. The more eggs, the more likely one is to survive. The very fact that robins lay clutches of multiple eggs and do it more than once a year speaks to the species knowledge that not all will make it. Maybe even that most will not.

What’s the message here? I guess one is that there are no assurances in life. We do the best we can, but we do live in a wild kingdom.

 Other Robin posts:
How to spend waiting time? A robin, writing update
And then there were four
A bird’s eye view