They Hatched!

by Barbara Walvoord

A few weeks ago, this column reported on the robin’s nest in the vine growing on my and Sharon’s front porch. Its four blue eggs were photographed by our grandchildren.

We read that only 40% of robins’ nests produce young, so as the days went by, and as our comings and goings made the brooding robins nervously leave the nest for a few minutes, we were ready for disappointment.

Then, one day, we noticed that the parents now stood up frequently and looked at their feet. The nest is too high for us to see inside it, but we heard no peeps and saw no worms coming in, so we imagined the parents saying, “Why aren’t you hatching?”

Instead, it appears they were saying, “Well, well. We better start getting the worms in here.”

And that’s what they’re doing. The chicks are about a week old in this photograph. The parents will feed the chicks in the nest for 14-16 days until they fledge, and then continue to feed them for up to four more weeks, as the babies learn to hunt on their own. Worms and bugs is what they eat, with an occasional escargot.

The babies excrete poop in a white sac that acts like a pre-made diaper. Mom and Dad take the sac in their beaks, sometimes eating it, and sometimes dropping it a distance away. Cleanliness not only reduces parasites and disease, but it keeps down odors that might attract predators like snakes or squirrels. Now there’s a reason to change a baby’s diaper.

But there were four eggs, and there are only three chicks. The mortality has begun. Up to 80% of these babies may not make it to adulthood. Once they fledge, and are living on the ground with their “beginners’ license” in flying, domestic cats are among their biggest enemies, which is one good reason that Lathrop prohibits dogs or cats to be outdoors without a leash.

Check out a fascinating blog where an expert answers peoples’ questions about protecting robins’ nests on porches or rain spouts, moving endangered nests, trying to raise orphan robins, etc. http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/FAQNestsEggs.html

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