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Name: John R.
Status: other
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Monday, June 17, 2002


Question:
A pair of robins built a nest low in my family's pear tree. Four eggs hatched, but within a few days there were only three babies left. I looked at them each day for about a week and the 3 grew to the point they took up the whole nest. Then I missed two days. When I went to the nest this evening, only one "baby" was left. As I was looking at him, he became frightened and jumped out of the nest (only about 2 feet from the ground). I quickly moved off (as one of the parents flew close to me and made a lot of noise to try to scare me away) so I would not frighten it more. As I observed from a distance, he moved slowly, a hop or two at a time, away from the nest and into my neighbor's yard.

My questions are, "What is (are?) the typical way young robins leave the nest?" It occurred to me that the last baby was so large that the nest wouldn't have held three his size. As they get bigger, do they get crowded out of the nest by their siblings as space disappears? How likely is it that this young bird will survive, since it appeared to me he could not fly yet? Is it typical for the young birds to leave the nest before they can fly? Was its behavior normal (moving away from the nest rather than staying close by)? I would like to pass your answers on to my son, who is 9.

I live in northern Indiana, if this information is useful.


Replies:
You have observed the typical behavior of not only robins but most passerine (small perching) birds. Yes, they get too big for the nest and jump or fall out. They usually will not move very far from the nest; parents will continue to feed them for another few days after they are able to fly, which is usually within a day or so of coming off the nest. Fledglings are very vulnerable at that stage, but enough survive to carry on the species.

J. Elliott


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