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27 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Nature > Nature Features > The secret life of the robin - leaving the nest

Robin inhand

The secret life of the robin - leaving the nest

Ornithologist David Tideswell from Stramshall in East Staffordshire provides an insight into the 'secret life of the robin'. In this last of the series, he describes the time when the young leave the nest.

Assuming all goes well, robin chicks will leave the nest about 13 days from hatching.

The moment of fledgling is dramatic, but one is rarely privileged to see it, in the case of well concealed nesters like the robin.

They stand on the lip of the nest, crowding and jostling, much wing flapping preparing for the big take off, (if you find an empty nest with the rim all flattened it is usually a good indication that the young left safely).

At this stage, the young robins look quite comical, plump, no tail, soft speckled brown plumage, with pale tips to the feathers and no trace of their parents red breast - considerable camouflage value at this time of year when the hedgerows are bathed in dappled sunlight.

Natural predators

Once out of the nest, they face two or three days of great danger since they cannot yet fly well. They try to make for low vegetation, keep still and rely on the plumage to conceal them from predators.

Enemy number one for the robin is the garden cat. It has been calculated that cats take 40 times more robins than any of the more natural predators, such as owls, sparrowhawks, kestrels, stoats and rats.

Juveniles will normally stay hidden trying to keep quiet, but you may hear contact calls when all is well, also listen out for the rasping note they give while being fed, a sure sign young robins are about.

Parenting habits

They will be fed for a further three weeks, mostly by the male. The female becomes less interested in the fledged young of her first brook and much more concerned with starting the next.

In a good year the robins will have two or even three broods, (not counting repeats after a nest has been predated). If the first nest was a success, subsequent nests will be built close by.

The robin is a host for cuckoos, ranking fifth behind reed warbler, meadow pipit, dunnock and pied wagtail. I personally know of two cases where robins have managed to raise cuckoos, what a task!

Perching techniques

One of the traditional pictures of the tame robin shows it perching on a gardener`s spade. Why does it do it so often?

The answer is simple: the robin's preferred feeding technique is to use a low perch to survey an area and then fly down and take any prey it sees. The handle is an ideal perch.

Add this to the presence of the gardener, turning the soil and exposing such useful food as earthworms, leatherjackets and other grubs - heaven for any garden for robin.

Caution! Take care when watering your hanging baskets, there could be a robin nesting inside.

David Tideswell

last updated: 09/04/2008 at 08:15
created: 09/04/2008

You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Nature > Nature Features > The secret life of the robin - leaving the nest

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