The hard work of a mother-to-be!

Mother robin crop

There she sits, patiently incubating her clutch of eggs.

I noticed the nest a few days ago when I went out to the deck to fire up the barbecue. Our deck is quite high, so I had a clear view of the nest tucked between our neighbour’s eavestrough and siding, about eight feet up.

That morning there had been snow on the ground, which may have accounted in part for her annoyed look. It was chilly and the wind was cold.

The nest is about seven inches across, made of twigs, mud and grass. I notice the mother robin has also incorporated a piece of blue string. It’s a close match for the eggs I imagine are lying at the bottom of the nest. (I can’t see them from my vantage point and I don’t want to get any closer. Usually, however, there are about four eggs in the first clutch.)

I’ve been keeping a close watch on mother robin and have been amazed at her tenacity and patience. (Yes, I know I’m anthropomorphizing here, but I can’t help myself.)

Since making my discovery, I’ve been reading up on the nesting habits of robins. Seems there’s quite a bit I didn’t know!

For instance, did you know that the female robin has a brood patch on the underside of her belly? It’s a section of exposed skin (i.e. featherless) that has blood vessels near the surface, enabling her to easily transfer heat to her incubating eggs. She is uniquely suited for this important job.

Also, do you know how much work goes into incubating robin eggs? The mother robin sits on her nest for about 50 minutes of each hour. The other 10 minutes she is hunting for food. To keep the eggs at the same temperature (so they all hatch together) she must turn them several times each day, using her bill to roll them in the nest. Turning the eggs also prevents the babies from sticking to the inside of the shell.

I am hoping to see the babies appear within the next week or so. The eggs will hatch a day apart, in the order they were laid. Then begins the full-time job for both parents to find food, feed the babies and protect the nest from predators until the babies leave the nest, usually nine to 16 days after hatching. Once the fledglings leave the nest, the mother robin will start building a new nest for her next brood!

How wonderful to have a ring-side seat on this amazing process. I am rooting for this robin family!

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About Liz Leake

I'm a communicator and writer living in Mississauga.
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4 Responses to The hard work of a mother-to-be!

  1. cdimov says:

    Hey Liz – you are BACK! Yay.
    Love the story… in fact I am watching the exact same story unfold with a robin family’s nest right outside our kitchen door. A wonderful passtime to watch the family emerge, grow and mature (eventually).
    Great seeing another one of your posts – as always 🙂

    Like

  2. Liz, I have 2 beatiful photos that I have to share with you!
    One of robin’s eggs and the other of freshly hatched robins. My husband took them (from a safe distance) last spring and they are so incredible.

    Like

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