The birds go into high gear to feed their young ones

Feeding young nestlings is busy work, so we're helping them out with mealworms

Right after this was taken, she caught and ate a beeThe birds are feeding their young ones now and are busier than ever. As in previous years, as soon as we step out of the door, a blackbird or robin will approach to see if there are any mealworms, and it's interesting to watch close up as they gather their bounty.

The blackbirds are adept at cramming as many as 10 mealworms into their beaks at once, but the robin is clearly still learning and it can be frustrating to watch. He just isn't very good at it yet. 

More than a mouthful

When I saw him a few days ago, he'd already got a big spider in his beak and wanted to add mealworms to the haul, so I held the bowl out to him. With the spider still held in his beak, he grabbed one and then immediately dropped it, after which he rolled it around the work bench pecking at it before eventually getting a firm hold of it. The same followed with another mealworm and then another. He's improving, however, for without the encumbrance of a spider, he can hold a maximum of five worms. Often he takes two and makes multiple trips for more. Something we've noticed, which leads us to think he's taking mealworms for youngsters, is that he's started whacking them on the work bench a few times to stun them. I'm wondering if this makes it easier for the young ones, so they don't have such a wriggling thing to contend with. 

Still from a video of a robin regurgitatingOccasionally, we see blackbirds and robins regurgitating. It looks like vomiting, but they're simply bringing up small balls of indigestible matter. From what we've observed, it happens before they eat something. So far, so gross, but it's interesting to see. One day, on offering the male blackbird mealworms, before eating he first retched and dropped something out of his beak that pinged off an empty gas canister. I wondered what it was and even looked for it, but couldn't find it. Later, the robin did the same while standing on the work bench and brought up a very small snail shell and the penny dropped. The blackbird was probably also regurgitating a snail shell. 

Have you seen these before?It's a mystery

Now I have a question that may relate to regurgitation. During the first half of April, I began spotting pink grains here and there on the ground. They look a bit like pink quinoa, but they're not. They turned up singly on the courtyard slabs, on the surface of pots and beds and even at the base of trees in woodland 20 miles from here, but only until mid-April and since then I've found no more. What are they? I've wondered if they might be something that a bird has regurgitated but cannot fathom it. If anyone knows, please let me know!

More information

Please note: the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author, which are not necessarily those of the RHS.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.