Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Nesting robins in the barn

Lately, in an effort to discourage wandering early-morning coyote attacks on the chickens, I've taken to setting up my computer in the barn for a couple of hours when I release the birds just after sunrise. So far it's worked to thwart additional attacks. (But no opportunity for a clean shot, however; there's a reason coyotes are termed "wily.")

Setting myself up in the barn isn't quite the hardship it implies. Early mornings have always been my favorite time of day anyway, and since the weather is finally warming up, the mornings are pleasant. The air is fresh and clean. The birds are singing. The early sun shines on the budding leaves and flowers. I bring my computer speakers so I have my Baroque music quietly playing. I have hot tea. Life is good.

This early-morning time allows me to capture some nice pics of the chickens I might not otherwise get, including the obligatory "rooster on the compost pile" shots...

...though since the compost pile elevates the chickens, it also allows them to spot the coyote early, when he (or she) is slinking around the edge of the woods, casing the joint. Paying attention to their alarm clucks is important (situational awareness!).

The nice thing about camping out in the barn for couple hours each morning is the little things that take place right under my nose I might otherwise not have noticed. Case in point, the robins who are nesting under the awning.

Robins have always been among my all-time favorite birds, so it's fun to watch both parents work hard to bring food to their offspring.

Look at those gaping gullets.

But I wanted to see the babies, so I leaned a ladder against the eave.

The mother flew away in alarm and watched me suspiciously from nearby.

Nests really are amazing construction.

Here's what the hatchlings looked like on May 19:

And on May 22:

I sometimes catch the robins in moments of leisure, such as this fellow grooming himself between warbling his "teereyo" call.

Sometimes the mother dozes while waiting for the father to return with a meal.

Then when he shows up, she steps aside so he can feed the babies.

Then -- I wasn't sure I was seeing this right until I confirmed it online -- after feeding, the parents remove the babies' waste. According to Wikipedia: "Waste accumulation does not occur in the nest because adults collect and take it away. Chicks are fed, and then raise tails for elimination of waste, a solid white clump that is collected by a parent prior to flying off." I've watched this, but to be honest it looks like the parents swallow the waste globule, not fly away to dispose of it. I've seen this over and over.

This nest is located in a wonderfully sheltered spot, away from wind and rain. But we have magpies around here, famous for eating nestlings. I've seen bluebirds and robins lose their broods in the past, which is so sad. I'm hoping this family is successful in raising their babies.


  1. We have a pair of Doves that have nested in a tree in the part of our property that has a solid wood fence. We also have 6 dogs, one of which can Jump over 6ft from a standing position, have seen her snatch a bird that flew to low , and eat it before we could reach her . The doves think that the dry dog food makes a good meal. Even though we have watched one dove distract the dogs while the other snatches the dog food, I am afraid the birds will misjudge .
    Dee in the South West

  2. That's one of the nicest offices I've ever seen (at least during the WARM months).

  3. Not that surprising after all. Our guard dog Brandi had pups and she'd lick up their droppings just like your robins. Don't understand why animals do this and it is sort of ucky, but it never hurt Brandi so I guess it's just a natural instinct.

    1. Keith, if you have noticed, mom quits this practice as soon as you start the pups on anything other than her milk. It is a natural instinct.
      Dee in the South West

    2. I have noticed our cats and dogs do the same , I would guess it is to completely remove any scent of the babies from anywhere near their "nest" even if they just carried it off somewhere , it would still be in the general area. My guess is that you ARE really seeing the birds eat the waste. Besides ,I doubt their tastebuds work like ours !! LOL !!

  4. I live in a small town in central Pennsylvania, one block from the high school. Lately we've been seeing coyotes walking down my street and killing rabbits. Hopefully they have not gone after the cats and small dogs in the neighborhood. We're not permitted chickens in town, much to my dismay.

    Mary Ellen

  5. Coyote patrol is nice duty . You see a lot that would normally get past you and eventually you will get that coyote. Works out well all around. And incidentally my favorite rifle for around the barn/garden varmint control is a 22 Hornet. Just enough, not too much. --ken

  6. I am in the city in Southern California, and coyotes have invaded. They are leaving ticks. Be careful!