Make the McKenzie Connection!

Offer robins what they need and they'll stick around

American robins are a favorite harbinger of spring, but most people take this ubiquitous Oregon native for granted. Though still abundant, robins are declining in urban settings and could use some help from homeowners.

Oregon State University Extension Service wildlife experts encourage Oregonians to learn about these underappreciated native birds. They’ve developed the following information to help people foster robins in their landscape.

* Robins (Turdus migratorius) seen in the winter months in Oregon may either be year-round residents or migrants coming from the north to spend the winter here.

* Home gardeners can plant some of their favorite food sources. Trees and shrubs that provide fruits such as Indian plum, thimbleberry, bitter cherry, huckleberry, and Oregon grape are good choices.

* It is important to plant trees and shrubs that provide cover. Some good choices are vine maple, currant, ocean spray, and California wax myrtle.

* To attract robins to bird feeders, feed them chopped apples, berries, and mealworms. They don’t eat birdseed; they prefer to forage for their food in lawns and open areas.

* Providing water is essential for robins because they drink and bathe regularly. A shallow pond with a muddy area is ideal since robins use mud for nest building. Birdbaths with misters and drippers will also appeal to these birds.

* Nest platforms offer robins a place to build a nest. Plans or platforms can be found in books or on the Internet.

* Robins have many predators. Domestic and feral (wild) cats kill many robins each year. Young robins are especially vulnerable when learning to fly because they are on the ground. Crows, jays, owls, and hawks prey on baby robins.

* Most robins spend a lot of time in bushes and trees where they hide from predators, rest, raise their young, and find protection from the weather. They use dense evergreen trees and shrubs, dead trees or snags, and nesting boxes. Suburban areas with a mixture of lawns, flowerbeds, gardens, shrubs, and trees provide the variety that can support robins

* Pesticides can kill or harm robins. They may also kill worms and insects, a major food source for robins. Robins are affected when they eat poisoned worms or berries. We can help keep robins safe by keeping cats indoors, setting out nest platforms, and not using chemicals on our lawns and plants.

* Robins help control insect populations. They are also essential for spreading seeds and growing new trees and bushes in new areas. The fruit they eat contains seeds that robins may drop elsewhere.

* The breeding season for robins is from April through July. When the female finds a partner, she builds a nest with the male’s help. The nest is cup-shaped and made from grasses or small twigs mixed with small mud. She places the mud with her feet, bill molds it with her body, and lines the nest with fine grass.

* Nests are usually located 10-20 feet high in a tree or occasionally in bushes or on the ground. The female may also use a level human-made structure such as a window ledge or platform as her nest site.

* One of the first birds to begin laying eggs in the spring, robins lay their first clutch or group of eggs around late April or early May. The female lays four light blue eggs, which she incubates (sits on) until they are ready to hatch after about 12 to 14 days.

* The young are born without feathers and with their eyes closed. Their parents feed them insects until they are ready to fledge or leave the nest when they are 14 to 16 days old.

* Baby robins cannot fly for the first few days after they leave the nest. Their parents lead them to low shrubs and trees, where they first learn to climb and jump. Their wings grow stronger within a day or two, and they take short flights. Their parents continue to feed them, and within a week or two, they are ready to be on their own. The robins may roost in big groups when the young are strong enough.

* Nesting up to three times yearly, male robins may watch over the fledging young while the female incubates the next clutch of eggs.

* For more information, consult Extension’s publication The Wildlife Garden: American Robin.

Author Bio

Kym Pokorny, Communications Specialist for Oregon State University

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Public Service Communications Specialist

 

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