How Much is a Beakful?

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Robins are so familiar they stop being a curiosity. That is, until they do something like building their nest where we can look into it whenever we sit on the deck as they did in 2018. The following article includes photos and observations about Robins gathering food for their family in 2021.

On July 28, 2021 I noticed a large piece of robin’s egg shell on the patio. A couple of days later a parent with insects dribbling out of its beak flew to the peak of the house roof as I came out of the garden. When it thought I was gone, it flew into the tree outside of my room. I didn’t even know there was a nest! I’d missed the whole process of nest building and incubation!

Robin waiting for a good time to deliver food

A few days later I observed both parents on the ground near the nest site. Robin A stayed within sight while Robin B flew away.

Robin A started out with these healthy morsels.

Robin A kept adding to its collection .

When Robins feed they run along the ground, legs a-blur then abruptly stop, look, and dash along; stop, look and add more insects. I call this their “sewing machine motion”: when I sew, I stitch , stop for a pin; stitch, stop for a pin; stich, stop to adjust. They keep adding more to their beak.

After numerous dash, stop; dash, pick up; dash stop sequences, Robin A decided it was time to head to the nest.

This is Robin B. While I focused on Robin A, this one flew out of sight to collect insects. It stopped within view when it returned just after Robin A flew into the nest. I wonder how they make the decision that they have enough to go home with. Every mouthful looked like enough to me, but somehow it was able to keep adding more.

What would our environment be like without birds collecting insects? I’m not taking them for granted any more!

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