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Robin Nest Study
What Can You Observe?

Image: Tom Grey

In most North American locations, robins nest twice each year, and three times in some places! Can you find some robin nests in your neighborhood? How many are in trees, and how many are on houses or other buildings?

Many bird books state that robins build their first nest in a conifer, like a pine or spruce, and their second and third nests in leafy trees. They say only the female builds the nest and incubates the eggs, but both parents search for nesting materials and feed the nestlings and fledglings. Do the robins in your neighborhood follow these "rules"? Try to keep track of the parents and their young for as long as you can.

Observe:
For each nest, answer as many of the following questions as you can:

  • How many eggs does the female lay?
  • How many days does it take for them to hatch?
  • How many days does it take for the nestlings to leave the nest?
  • How many babies survive to fledge?
  • If the babies didn't all survive, could you figure out for certain what happened to them?
  • Do young robins come back into the nest after they leave it for the first time? If so, when do they stop coming to the nest? If not, can you tell where they spend their time?

Image: L Birnbaum

Something About Survival
Did you notice whether more babies survived in nests made on buildings or those made in trees? In many areas, crows take robin eggs and nestlings to eat themselves or to feed to their young. In some areas, this presents a serious problem for baby robins. In most cities, crows stay away from buildings, so the robins that nest on houses have more nesting success than robins nesting in trees.


Build a Robin Nest Box
To encourage robins to nest on your house and to make it easier to observe nesting behavior, try building your own robin nest box using these plans. If you build it in June, robins may well use it for their second nesting attempt this year. But even if they don't, they may notice the nest box this year, making it more likely they'll use it on their first try next year.

NEST BOX PLANS

Image: Courtesy of Carrol Henderson
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources



National Science Education Standards

  • Ask a question about objects, organisms, events.
  • Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying.

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