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Life Cycle

Q. How long do American robins live?

A. Most robins die their first year. But the lifespan goes up dramatically for the ones that survive that critical time, because they've learned so many important life skills.

Of those that survive their first year, most wild robins live to be about 5 or 6. As of February, 2001, the longest-living banded wild robin ever recorded had survived 13 years and 11 months, according to the Bird Banding Laboratory at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. In captivity, robins have survived longer than 17 years.

Q. Do robins mate for life?

A. No, robins do not mate for life. Pairs usually remain together during an entire breeding season, which can involve two or three nestings. However, in spring, sometimes a male and female who mated the previous year will both return to the same territory and end up together for another year. This happens most frequently when they were successful raising babies the previous year.

Q. What is a robin nest like?

A. A robin nest is constructed mostly from dead grass, twigs, and mud. The outside diameter is about 8 - 20 cm (3 - 8 inches).

Q. HELP! There's a problem with the robins nesting in my backyard!

A. Look for the answer to your questions here.

Q. How many eggs do robins normally lay?

A. Most robin clutches during their first nesting of a season have 3 or 4 eggs. Very rarely there are 5, but this most often happens when a robin lays an egg in another robin's nest. Second and third nestings of a season sometimes have only 2 eggs.

To learn more about robin eggs, see our lesson Eggstra, Eggstra! Read All About It!

Q. What color are robin eggs?

A. Blue. People have actually named a color "robin's egg blue" for the precise shade.

Q. Why do robins lay their eggs later in the day than most songbirds?

A. Robins get a lot of their calories from food from the worms they eat. They find their worms by sight, so there needs to be a little light for them to hunt, but the worms hide soon after sunrise. So robins eat first thing in the morning, and THEN lay their eggs.

Q. How long does it take for robin eggs to hatch?

A. 12-14 days from the time the last egg is laid.

Q. How much do newly-hatched robins weigh?

A. 5.5 grams--a little less than a quarter.

Q. What color are robin chicks?

A. Baby robins are colorful. Their skin in bright light may appear yellowish, and is transparent enough that it's possible to see a baby robin's green gall bladder, purplish-red liver, and orange yolk sac right through the skin! The inside of their mouths is bright yellow and orange-red. To see nestling robins, see Journey North's Robin Nest Photo Study.

Q. What three things does a baby robin know as soon as it hatches?

A. The nestling knows to sit very still when its parents are away, to pop up and open its mouth to beg for food the moment its parents return, and to poop as soon as it swallows some food.

Q. How do baby robins recognize their parents?

A. When they first hatch, they probably don't! They know the parents have arrived with food by the "bounce" they feel on the nest, and on a sunny day by the shadow their parents make over them. This is their signal to pop up with their mouths open. Little by little, they start learning the sounds their parents make, too. By the time their eyes open, they already know their parents' voices.

Q. How do baby robins keep their nest clean?

A. Baby robins produce their poop in fecal sacs, encased in strong membranes so they don't leak. To learn more, see our Fecal Sac Lesson.

Q. When do young robins learn to fly?

A. Baby robins jump from their nest when they are about 13 days old. It takes them another 10-15 days to become strong fliers and independent birds.

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