Expecting at Lathrop, #5

by Barbara Walvoord

Sharon and I planted a native honeysuckle vine by our porch to encourage hummingbirds and other insects. The vine is as tall as the roof, and it’s producing lovely tubular red flowers where hummingbirds hover and sip, and chase each other for control of the territory. Because it’s a native plant that co-evolved with our hummingbirds, its flowers are the perfect shape for hummingbird beaks, and its nectar meets their tastes and their bodies’ needs.

AND, we got an unexpected bonus–a mama robin chose our vine for a nest. Our grand daughters Lauren and Liana Warner helped us examine the nest and take this photo of the four blue eggs.

It’s the mom who chooses the location. She also built the nest, starting from the inside. She pressed dead grass and twigs–perhaps with paper, feathers, rootlets, or moss–into a cup shape, using the wrist of one wing. Once the cup was formed, she reinforced the nest with mud and worm castings, brought to the nest in her mouth (eeew), and then lined the nest with fine dry grass.

Now there are four eggs, and dad is finally doing some work–taking his turn to sit on the eggs.

This might be the second or even third clutch of eggs this mom has laid this year. Failure is high. About 60% of nests fail to produce young. When eggs do hatch, about 75% of the fledglings die before November. Then, over the winter, about half the remaining robins will die.

Despite that mortality, the robin population in the U.S. is large and stable, thanks to moms like this who build and build, lay and lay, and dads who share the sitting and feeding.

Robins eat worms and other bugs, as well as fruit. One study showed they prefer fruit with bugs in it–a “two-fer.” So our grass and our berry-bearing bushes are their cafeteria.

Because robins forage on lawns, they are highly vulnerable to pesticides and herbicides. Everything we can do at Lathrop to reduce those chemicals will help these hard-working parents and their babies to thrive. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin/lifehistory

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