Friday, June 22, 2012

Two years in a row I have seen signs of breeding Robins just outside the Blackwater Falls Lodge. This year I spotted this female sitting on her eggs. You can see she was very aware of me as I slowly approached and took this photo. This nest was in a small tree not too high above my head. I really wasn't as close as it looks but thanks my zoom lense I could get a close view.

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius), a member of the thrush family, is common throughout West Virginia and often taken for granted. I would say most people recognize them and might even know their cheery song.

We have seen them running and quickly stopping as they look for grubs and worms in the yard. They also feed on berries and other fruit. Since they cock their heads to the side many people believe they are listening for worms but they are actually looking for them. With eyes on the sides of their heads they need to cock their heads to get the best view of any movement in the grass.

It is one of the earliest bird species to lay eggs, beginning to breed shortly after returning to its summer range. Its nest is made of long coarse grass, twigs, paper, and feathers, and is smeared with mud and often lined with grass or other soft materials. If you have time check out Robin Building nests on Ytube. They bring dabs and sometimes globs of mud missed with vegetation to add to the nest. Then they do a stomp dance like movement to pat it all down and get the mud smooth and mixed in with the twigs.  It is really pretty cool to watch. Here is a photo of a nest that I found in the middle of the road a few years ago. You can see the mud mixed in the bottom. I think that originally when this nest was in the tree it had much more grass and twigs at the bottom but the fall dislodged some of it, and well, it was probably at least a half year old by then.

Notice the softer inner layer and a peak at the mud on the bottom and then notice how much more grass is in in the next photo to truly give a nice dry soft bead for the chicks.

The young like these two are often taken by squirrels, snakes and even some birds like Grackles and Crows. The eggs hatch after 14 days and it looks like 2 more are ready to hatch. You can see how vulnerable they can be.

I have never actually seen this but I have read that the chicks while in the nest raise their tails when they are ready to poop and out pops a solid white clump, called a fecl sac. The mother picks up and flys out to drop it the away from the nest. I guess that is a Robins version of a diaper.

The females do all of the incubation while the male is more involved in protection and feeding the young chicks when they leave the nest two weeks after they hatch. Then it takes two more weeks before they can sustain flight. In the meantime the parents are responsible for feeding them. This little chick was hiding in the bushes at Blackwater Falls when I took its’ photo through the window. It was hidden very well from the outside even though we all had a privileged look from inside the building.

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