Monday, April 16, 2012

Nesting Procedures

One morning, while opening the blinds in our bedroom, I noticed a nest sitting on the window sill.  Not only was the nest firmly built on a brick foundation, but was located under a very large overhang which supports the four white columns of our colonial home.  No chance Mama or her babies will be exposed to any elements.  No bird was around to lay claim to it, but I managed to convince my husband to let it stay there.  I was excited to have the chance to watch baby birds grow (once they were actually in the nest, of course), but it would be downright cruel to destroy something that took a lot of hard work to create, and would be needed very soon to house eggs, and the baby birds.

I thought my husband, John, was simply annoyed at the nest being there (because it was preventing us from being able to open the window while the weather is so nice), but one day not long after the nest showed up, he called me at work.  "Did you see the eggs in the nest?" 
"No!  How many eggs?"
"There are two."

When I went home for lunch to administer Bulldog Recess, I almost immediately ran upstairs to see the eggs.  I was surprised, though, because I saw three eggs, not two.  When I told John, his response was, "Oh.  I guess I missed one of them." 

Returning home from work that evening, changing into some more comfortable clothes for some yard work or a Bulldog Walk, I checked the nest again.  Four eggs.  I often annoy John with my questions.  He always knows he's in trouble when I start a sentence with, "I have a question."  I usually get an eye roll and either, "This ought to be good," or, "Oh boy."  But semi-witnessing the egg laying process brought up the question of how exactly reproduction works for birds.  I guess I just assumed they carried all the eggs and then laid them, like amphibians or reptiles.  I also was basing this assumption on how mammals deliver (although yes...I do know mammals don't lay eggs!), carrying and delivering the entire litter at the same time.  Seeing the size of the robin compared to the size of the eggs, I knew that couldn't be possible.

Enter Google.  After a little research, I had my answer.  The eggs form one at a time, and the robin will lay the egg as soon as it is fully formed.  Because like an airplane, too much luggage, and you risk not being able to take off!  I should have tracked the number of days, but not too long later, the hatching started!

We were out working in the yard all day, and a quick run up to get something and I saw these two little guys!  And already hungry!

Luckily, John was working in the front yard and I was in the back, so I didn't have to keep making excuses to run in and see if the other eggs had hatched.  Three came not too much later, and then it was awhile before Four made his debut.  It was interesting, because I caught Mama flying off with an egg shell in her beak after Four arrived.  She was also monitoring their progress and removing the egg shells as soon as the little ones broke free.  There were several freezing nights after the Birdies were born, but I never saw Mama leave the nest.  She just poofed herself out and kept those babies warm.

Before the eggs hatched, Mama would fly away any time we opened the blinds, or even walked into the bedroom.  After they hatched, though, it was interesting because Mama would just look and acknowledge us, but she would stay in the nest.  I don't know if that's nature not to abandon the babies when danger lurks, but we like to think that she got used to us and trusts us.  We can get right up to the glass and peek at them, and she watches the entire time, but doesn't seem nervous or alarmed.  I have gotten into the habit of telling her, "Good morning, Mama," when I open the blinds in the morning, and, "Good night, Mama.  You keep those babies warm," when I close them at night.

And a few weeks later...

These guys just crack me up.  One has a bit of a Mohawk, but the rest of them look like little old men who are bald on top and have crazy hair on the sides.

See the resemblance?
While doing my research, I also read that the father actually takes over feeding the fledglings while Mama builds another nest and lays a second clutch of eggs!  So now I'm wondering where this second nest is.  Guess I'll have to start checking the other windows!

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