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Bird's nests are usually in trees or otherwise inaccessible places, so it is difficult to observe the development of a family. When robins built a nest right outside our breakfast nook window, we had the wonderful opportunity to observe the growth of robins from the time of hatching to flying away. This took 13 days for the equivalent of at least 13 years of a human baby's life.

This story is a welcome respite from the continous disasters - earthquakes, oil spills, floods, suicide bombings of innocent people - that dominate our lives in present times.

      The full story is in a two minute slide show. But here is a description of events as observed from the window.

     In two previous years, robins had built a nest in the rhododendron bush, but after the blue eggs had been laid, some intruder, probably a squirrel, had upset the nest, throwing the eggs to the ground, breaking them. This time the robins were more careful. On May 14 they started building the nest in a location invisible except through the gap next to the window. In addition, after three eggs were laid, the birds guarded them day and night, either one or the other. I saw the male robin dive-bombing a squirrel that ventured close too the bush, it never came back!
     Finally, on June 9, as I was eating breakfast I saw tiny beaks stick up over the edge of the nest.

     At first I only saw two, then after a couple of days a third appeared. As the days progressed, the chicks grew rapidly, but one was noticably larger than the others, possibly was hatched a day earlier. Both parents were busy feeding the chicks. I was surprised to observe that the heads would poke upwards, beaks wide open, a few seconds before a parent arrived with new food. How did the nineth day you could almost see them growing.
     The following day the largest, and oldest, was starting to spread his wings. The following morning, when I came down to beakfast, he was already gone. I spotted him sitting proudly on the fence with a piece of worm in his beak.
    Now there was more room in the nest. The next one, also a male, was preening his wings. The smallest huddled in the nest, nuzzling her feathers. From time to time papa flew in with tasty morsels.

    I got up early the next morning, just in time to see number two balance on the edge of the nest with raised wings. After a few hops he took off and fluttered down onto some lower branches of the bush. After a few moments resting, he took off again and found his way out into the open air.
    The final chick now started to get ready to take off from the nest. She fluffed her wings. Several times perched on the edge, but after looking around, changed her mind. At one moment brother came back to the nest. You could imagine him saying "Sis, I managed it. Don't be afraid!"
    In the early afternoon she finally made up her mind and took off. When he came to eat my lunch just before two o'clock, the nest as finally empty.
    I am sure that what on the slide show is marked as Day 1, was really Day 2 or even Day 3. I was unable to see the inside the nest to glimpse when the chicks actually hatched. I was surprised that after the first chck left the nest, mama took off and I never saw her again. Papa stayed on to bring food for the remaining two.

rhododendron robin guards chicks day 3 day 9 first baby out See the full slide show.

All photos taken with a Nikon Coolpix L20 camera on 4x optical zoom.

All about the American robin,
bird song, habitat, chick size, etc.

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Last updated: June 24, 2010.