May 8, 2001 (continued): Waiting Patiently

Notice how snugly the female is sitting on this nest. In middle latitudes such as this Minnesota yard, the female flies off her first nest about 25 minutes before dawn each day, which is earlier than many birds leave their nests.

Q Why do you think female robins leave the nest earlier in the morning than females of other species?

Photo by Julie Brophy

Feeling Broody
Female robins spend 75-80% of the daytime brooding early in the season. During the second and third nestings, they spend about 65-70% of the daytime brooding. In Victoria, Minnesota on May 8, the sun rises at about 5:48 a.m. CDT and sets about 8:25 p.m. CDT.

Q. About how much time did this female probably spend incubating her eggs on May 8, the day this photo was taken?

Camera Shy
We asked Julie how the robins reacted to being photographed. She wrote,

How did the parents react to being photographed? Just as you would expect, initially there was a lot of commotion--peek and tut and whinny calls were definitely the song for the day! Shame on us for getting too close to the nest!

Usually, Mrs. Robin would remain motionless on the nest (as to not be detected) until we got too close. You could hear Mr. Robin nearby just beginning the tut, tut, tut warning. She would fly off the nest once we got too close and both parents would scold us loudly and fly all around us. A lot of commotion!

This was repeated every morning for about 4 days. Then gradually, Mrs. Robin would not complain quite as much. She would fly off the nest, land nearby and emit a few warnings, and then watch fairly patiently until we left. We would work as fast as possible. Maybe she would have grown accustomed to our presence naturally, or maybe leaving a little mealworm treat for their trouble each time helped?! ;-)

To hear the sounds Julie heard, and to learn what other robin sounds mean, play Name That Tune.

Discussion of Previous Questions

Q. Why do you think that Robins virtually never build their first nest of the year in an oak or maple?

Robins usually arrive on their breeding grounds a few weeks before deciduous trees such as maples and oaks leaf out. To protect the incubating female and the eggs and nestlings from wind, rain, and even too much sun, they select nesting trees that provide better shelter.

Q. Can you list some ways that weather affects robin nest construction?

Robins require thick mud for their nests. If the weather has been too dry, mud won't be available. If the weather is cold (especially in spring) the top layer of ground can freeze, making mud hard to chip out. If the weather is too rainy, the mud might be too runny for the robin to hold in her beak, and steady rain over a nest-site can dissolve the mud as the nest is being constructed.

See the next Robin Nest Photo Lesson and check your answers to the questions.