The Window Box Robins.

A robin made a nest in the window box right outside my office. I immediately trained a camera on it and watched as nature instinctively played out.  

 

I finally have my window box back after weeks of squatting by a pair of neighbourhood robins. The mother had a fluffy, squishy bum, perfect for forming a nest. I got to sit and watch exactly how a robin builds one of those perfect nests.  It’s all in the bum and she works it. Mama Robins are the J Lo’s of the bird world.  It’s amazing.

The father is always around too. He’s either helping to find nest materials, guarding the nest or finding food for the babies. He is 100% involved.

 

Since I had such an up close and personal view of this nest for so long I made a point to stop doing everything else in my life including, but not limited to showering, eating, working, watching television, gardening and communicating with friends and family.  All of the time I would have put into these activities was put into watching the life of a robin.

And documenting it.

And telling people about it.

Anyone really.

I learned a lot about robins during this episode.  Here are a few of the facts.

All About Robins

  • The nest is primarily built by the female robin.
  • A robin lays 4 eggs, one each day for 4 days. (Occasionally there will be 3 or 5)
  • She doesn’t start to sit on the eggs right away because she won’t be ready to incubate them until 2 or 3 of them are laid. This way the eggs hatch at close to the same time.
  • Robins eggs hatch after 14 days of incubation.
  • The nest may look like it has been abandoned, but if the female has gone to eat, leaving the nest alone,  the male is somewhere watching over the nest for predators.  Often he’ll fly over and stand right by the nest to protect it.
  • The hatchlings know to pop their heads up and open their mouths as soon as they feel a light bump on the side of their nest. They know it’s their mama landing there with food.
  • The baby birds spend another 9 – 16 days before they leave the nest.

When they hatch out of their shells, baby robins are helpless, blind and featherless.

Within a couple of hours the mother is already bringing it worms to eat.

You can see, she’s landed on the nest, they’ve felt the bump, and almost all of them popped their heads up for food.

They are beautiful. Provided you think old bald men with massive eyebrows are beautiful.

Day by day you can see different parts of the birds develop. Downy feathers come quickly, nostrils open up, that trademark yellow beak starts to form and ears get bigger and better at hearing.  You can see the ear in the picture below, just behind the big googly eye.

Better than the photos, I got it all on video.  (If you have an adblocker running on your computer you will not be able to see watch video below)

 

I left the nest in my window box for 2 weeks in case they wanted to “try again”. But they never came back. So I bagged the nest for my collection and cleared out the window box.  It’s currently filled with a riot of red geraniums, parsley, lavender and Ivy Geraniums. 

Yet it still isn’t as pretty as it was last week. 

Have a good weekend!


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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48 Comments

  1. Patricia says:

    Karen,
    Thanks so much for documenting and sharing! Yes, they are beautiful.

  2. canadamsel says:

    Fabulous photos! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Willow says:

    Baby birds are weird looking critters. What I find super cool is how the feathers develop and the sheath falls off as the feather grows. Thank you for sharing these neat-o pictures!!

  4. That was so wonderful and so sad. Thank you for this.

  5. Meg says:

    Bye little birbs! Such lovely little things! Did you see them fledge? I had baby doves in the eaves, but didn’t actually see them fledge, the nest was just empty one day. (They’re back this year, maybe it worked out OK last year!)

  6. You got it on video? …and you are not sharing??? You’re just taunting us that you have it on video and we have to imagine it? I want to see baby birdies grow up too! (Ok, I will stop being a whiner…maybe the video was like 3 weeks long or something and that is why you aren’t sharing…you must have your reasons). I have a robin by my garden and I tell him every day that I won’t hurt his “little bebes.” He is kind of getting used to me now and doesn’t freak out as bad. They are the cutest little buggers and will probably fly away any day. It will be kind of sad to not have the nest filled with cute little fluff balls…I’m sure it was a real downer for you when your “bebes” left the nest too. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Tara says:

    I was thinking – the next day they were gone? They flew awayyyy…..oh no they couldn’t have….too young to leave the nest…..ohhhhh…. sad. Beautiful pics. Loved them. So cool. So sad.

  8. Janet says:

    Sad ending.😢 Thanks for sharing though… very educational. Awesome that you had such a spectacular front row (window) seat. Such cool close ups. Loved it. A little concerned about where papa might have been near the end. Was he watching his children, or was he like the majority of male robins in my back yard…. spending most of their time in the birdbath, and grooming themselves afterwards…….like,
    f o r e v e r ! Hilarious. Thanks again, Karen!

  9. Dana Studer says:

    Awww… so cute, Karen. I hate to imagine what happened to them though. Cats would be the problem here.

    We have a federal law here in the states that protects birds. Some birds reuse their nests. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which “makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.”

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dana. Well, the window box is a second story window so it wasn’t a cat. I’m sure it was the crows, having seen the eyeing the nest days earlier. ~ karen!

  10. Beth Lawton says:

    Here in eastern shore Maryland, we have lots of snakes who raid the bird nests – they also keep the mice out of the gardens, so we’re happy about that (and snakes gotta eat too, right?). I have seen a wren nest (last year) and a starling nest (this May) both serving as the local grocery store for the snake – and he/she keeps coming back to check the same place on our porch! It’s fascinating to watch, but can seem a bit, err, cold-blooded!

  11. Letisha Loew says:

    Karen, that was simply beautiful. You are a gifted writer. The world is better because you are in it.

  12. Jenny W says:

    I loved watching your stories on Instagram about these littles, and I was devastated when you posted that they were just gone. Nature can be a crewl SOB 🙁
    Your pictures documenting those few days are amazing by the way <3

  13. Colleen Cailes says:

    ARGH!! Sometimes I hate “the circle of life”. I love crows too though they are a bit ruthless in their search for food. Great documentation.

  14. whitequeen96 says:

    Beautiful, incredible photos. I was thinking I’d have to go on youtube to see if I could find a nest-building post, and then you showed yours! You’re writing was excellent too; fascinating, uplifting, and then . . . sad. Poor babies! Poor parents. I’m glad you didn’t have the camera on for the horrible part.

  15. Jim says:

    Karen,

    Thanks for the transfixing bird story with photos/video/narrative.
    Nest building skills are impressive. Not sure a human could build a nest using only teeth–even with an instruction manual. Birds grow up fast– out of the nest within 30 days. Sometimes it takes us humans 30 years. Not exactly a Walt Disney ending for birds, or humans I guess !

    I enjoy your writing and photography.

    Jim

  16. Edie Marie says:

    I loved this Karen! The front porch of our family home had a trellis at one end of it where a trumpet vine grew, twisting here and there through it. There were branches that l looked like trimmed fingers that were the perfect structure to hold a nest. Robins always built a nest there every spring. Although we didn’t have a camera to see inside the nest I would hold a mirror up at times to see what was going on in there. I discovered something very interesting. When the baby birds are all fat & fluffy from all those bugs & worms and it’s time to take wings & fly, the parents just stop feeding them. Mama & Papa would sit in the grass and yell at them to get their behinds up, take a leap and find their wings. ( If only humans would do the same to their kids maybe the world would be different! Just sayin’!) After a day of starving, one by one the little peeps would throw themselves out into the world of “grass & find your own food” and the show was over! It was great free entertainment every spring. Your video is awesome but my condolences about the ending. sniff sniff

  17. Sandra Lea says:

    What an extraordinary part of nature that you were privileged to have a front seat view of. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Carrie says:

    Oh man!!!!
    Heartbreaking…I was so invested and couldn’t wait to see them leave the nest
    Nature..so beautiful and cruel at the same time!😢
    This is something I’ve done….. I watched and took photos of this family and had them put on canvas.
    (Think the crows knew better to cross me!☺) But I was hovering like a momma robin myself.
    You have inspired us in many ways Karen, but I think this is my favorite. Except for the pizza oven tutorial. I mean….who doesn’t LOVE pizza 🍕🍕😀😀

  19. Marilyn Meagher says:

    How sweet xo

  20. Carrie says:

    Oh man!!!!!
    Nature…so beautiful and cruel at the same time!😢
    I was so invested and couldn’t wait to see them leave the nest…
    I’ve done this myself.I watched this family and took photos and had them put on canvas. I think the crows knew better than to mess with me. (I was hovering like a momma robin myself☺)
    They actually hatched on Mother’s Day!!
    You’ve inspired us in many ways Karen,but I think this is my fave!😀
    Well, except for the pizza oven tutorial. I mean, who doesn’t LOVE pizza 🍕🍕🍕🍕☺
    (Cue the nut who comes out and says….me! Lol😂)

  21. carol bittner says:

    Thank you for this awesome video. I like to watch the birds build their nest and raise their young but what I have seen can’t compare to your story and video. They had a sad ending; but that is also a big part of nature. Now your window box is filled with more beautiful nature to enjoy.

  22. Lynne says:

    Fascinating and very educational. One spring I spent a morning herding baby robins under spruce trees to try to save them from the magpies pecking their heads. Nature is cruel! Thanks so much.

  23. Heather says:

    Those photos are lovely! Reminded me of childhood, climbing into apple trees to look at the eggs and baby robins in their nests. Sadly, in the last couple of years, we have seen a huge increase in nest robbing by crows in our neighbourhood. They are taking all the song birds around here; it aint a pretty thing to witness. Don’t know if anything can (or should) be done about it.

  24. Jane says:

    Thanks, Karen, I was wondering about your robins after what happened to our cardinals. They are a young pair that came to feed on the table on the front porch during the winter. Late last month, they built a nest in the forsythia bush about 2 feet away from the side of the porch. It was hard to see clearly, but I managed to see 3 eggs in it. I was so thrilled when they started hatching at the last day of the month, which was a Friday. If mama cardinal left the nest and the bush moved, the babies would immediately opened their mouths wide. So cute! The following Monday morning, I could even hear quiet chirps. Late afternoon that same day, after I came home from shopping, they were gone! My husband told me that he did hear loud chirping for a bit while I was out, but since both our cats were inside, he didn’t bother to investigate. The cardinals were still hovering around for another day before they moved on somewhere else to start again. Very, very sad.

  25. Teresa says:

    Mine came back after a month and now have 4 more eggs in the nest. They used it last year too.

    Robins built a nest in the eves of my open tool shed – it is right under the roof so I have to sneak my phone up there to see any eggs. I can’t get to it and I don’t think crows can either but other climbing critters might. I know the first batch hatched this year but I don’t know if they fledged. I can’t even work in the shed because mama leaves the nest when I go in to get anything and at least one of the parents flys to a nearby branch and yells at to get the hell out of there. So I do.

  26. This was truly amazing! Years ago a mother hummingbird nested in our outdoor patio chandelier a total of three times. It was beautiful. My children still talk about the experience to this day. Thank you so much for sharing. Even though the ending was sad.

  27. Dave R says:

    I was going to comment about the crack about old bald men with massive eyebrows, but after watching the snuff video, I’m just gonna say that Mother Nature and crows, especially, suck.

  28. Elizabeth Clough says:

    Ahhh, lovely, beautiful and heartwrenching all at the same time.

    What a gift to experience this miracle of nature. I’m so sorry the babies didn’t make it…

  29. Jan in Waterdown says:

    Yesterday while wandering around a nearby garden nursery, I noticed a printed sign “Warning, bird nesting” on a hanging basket. So of course I had to have a wee peek and there in the middle of the geraniums was a mourning dove looking down at me like she was ready to peck my eyes out. I swear some birds have nasty facial expressions lol.

  30. Janet says:

    Wow. That was awesome (except the ending…) Thanks for sharing this.

  31. Vikki says:

    Amazing that such a beautiful bird starts out as such a butt-ugly ball of skin. Nature is very “red in tooth and claw.”

  32. Diane C says:

    This is absolutely amazing Karen!
    It makes me so in awe of nature.

  33. Elaine says:

    Thank you, Karen, for the beautiful (but sad) video. My last Summer in a house (now in a condo), an empty robin’s nest fell down from our pergola onto the patio. I was just truly amazed at its “architecture” (!!) and so wanted to pick it up and bring it with me but was very concerned about health issues so I left it for the next occupant.

    I just wish I’d known of you then because I would definitely have asked you for advice. By the way, I often direct readers of Home Talk to your site regarding everything under the sun … from toilets to tomatoes. I tell them they will get the best advice and the only advice they’ll ever need! 😊

  34. Jacquie Gariano says:

    I lived in Spokane, WA. years ago and had a planter hug on the garage wall that over looked the patio and I had a great view out our large kitchen window. A pair of Robins made a nest in it and hatched 3 eggs. Such beautiful blue. We were very lucky to watch the laying, hatching and feeding of the babies. In “those” days we could only watch and occasionally snap photos of the babies and adults. We were lucky, they grew big enough to leave the nest on their own and hopefully live a full life. Loved your video. Thanks so much for sharing. Maybe they will come again next year.

  35. Barb says:

    Perfect timing for these lovely pictures. I’ve been watching 5 bluebird babies for several weeks and was fortunate enough to see their initial flight today. What a treat!

  36. Jane C. says:

    So sad to hear about your robins. Mine did fledge while I was out one day. The last one was still on the nest when I arrived home and I got a photo.

  37. Angela says:

    so beautiful and so sad. Thank you for capturing and sharing!

  38. Thea says:

    Wow!! That’s very cool. Nice of those birds to put their nest right in your window like that. You must have very positive vibes.

    Just a thought on removing of the nest. I recently learned that other birds will take over old nests, so it might be good to leave them if it’s not in a bad spot for you. Also, apparently good nesting material is hard to find for birds in urban environments, other birds will steal materials they need from empty nests, so another good reason to leave them out.

  39. Safetydog says:

    Beautiful pictures and video. Thank you for sharing. Sad ending, but that is nature. How do the robins keep the nest so clean? We’ve had wrens or sparrows or something nest on top of an outdoor speaker for several years. The nest and top of the speaker are covered in bird poop every year. We kindly clean it up for them.

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