Single dad in the shrubbery

It's a bird's life: the male robin is working flat out to bring up his chicks

Two of the young robins wait for foodThe resident robin must surely be looking forward to his chicks dispersing. I don't know how many there are in this second brood of the year, but I have seen three. Since the female hasn't shown herself for weeks, it may be that she's either caring for others in the brood or has been predated and the male is looking after all the chicks. 

I can't think when I've ever seen a more active parent bird – from dawn to dusk he is tireless in his work of finding food and accosts me regularly to ask for mealworms. Curiously, he stayed away for five days in a row about ten days ago and we wondered if this might have been because the ants were hatching out then so the chicks were being fed on flying ants. At one point the robin was so busy that I wondered if it might be feeding a cuckoo, so it was a relief to look out one day and see young robins clamouring for food and not a huge cuckoo chick.

Flying the nest

This intensity has gone on almost three weeks and, having watched them, I can see the young birds are now starting to look for food by themselves, flapping down to pick up spiders and small flies as well as dropped mealworms. Indeed I have noticed robin has begun to ration the worms, going from delivering two to each chick to only one. 

The robin flies off to get more wormsAs the intensity of feeding finally starts to decline, the robin is taking a little more time for itself, eating more and, interestingly, returning to sit on the rim of the old tool bag hanging from a hook. Before his new family came along, the robin would spend long periods sitting on this bag but he hasn't used it for weeks. The rim is constructed of a thickly woven fabric with a rough texture and possibly feels a little like a slender branch. It hangs safely within the shelter of the garage, has a good view of the outside and seems comfortable. It's good to see him finally relaxing since he's going to need his energy for the imminent moulting season.

Watching the plump and lively robin chicks, I notice that one of them is bolder than the others. To start with, all three were shy, flitting into the hedge at the first sign of human presence, but the bold one has taken to running along a sheet of wood leaning against the garage to peer in through the door and watch its parent gather worms from the little crème brûlée dish we decant them into. As I watched, I had been musing how this intrepid young bird reminds me of its father and had to smile as the robin briefly, but very intently, looked at its feet, something I have only ever seen the adult robin do. I can only guess, but wonder if the bird has learned this behaviour from the parent. 

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