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MissAusten's avatar

What should I do about this robin's nest?

Asked by MissAusten (16132points) June 4th, 2010

A pair of robins built a nest in a small tree near our front door. The eggs hatched several days ago, but the babies are still pretty helpless. Their eyes just opened yesterday, and they don’t have a lot of feathers. This afternoon, I happened to look over at their tree on my way into the house, and saw one of the baby birds flopping around on the ground. I carefully returned him to the nest, but noticed that the nest is rather lopsided.

For the rest of the evening, we kept a close eye on the baby birds (from a respectable distance, to avoid stressing the adults), and later saw that another baby had fallen out! Luckily, the nest is not very high, maybe 5.5 feet up. I sat on the front steps for a while, and saw that whenever Mom or Dad flies up to feed the babies, they freak out and flounder around in the nest with their necks stretched out. The babies on the side of the nest that has dipped lower are clearly in danger of falling out again.

Should we try to somehow straighten the nest out, or just leave it alone? I know the robins won’t “smell” us on the nest and abandon it, but I also don’t want to make the situation worse. Is there a safe way to stabilize a tipping nest? Have you ever attempted to fix a nest and had things turn out well?

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15 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Under the precarious circumstances, you have nothing to lose by stabilizing the nest. Stuff some dead leaves or small branches under the lower side, perhaps? It sounds as though the babies may continue to fall out.

Wash your hands and wear rubber gloves. That’s just a guess. Maybe the smell of latex would be just as upsetting as your smell.

I have watched baby barn swallows try to fly out of a nest built on a boathouse ceiling beam. The mother was on another beam with a bug in her beak and was clearly urging them to spread their wings.Two of the fledges fell into the water and drowned before we could reach them.

After that we removed all the nests before the mother laid eggs. Too distressing for the kids when they were young. (And then a beaver moved in under the floor boards, which were laid over the water.)

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

It is difficult to intervene without the risk of making as many problems as you solve. I know it is hard to not intervene. Now that you have, @gailcalled‘s advice is as good as I can offer.

Merriment's avatar

A safe way would be to take an open weave strawberry basket and wire it to the branch and place the whole other nest inside it. Don’t worry about your scent. Bird parents aren’t put off by the scent of humans, that is an old wives tale. They will take their time about returning to the nest after you do this but they will eventually return.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, @Merriment has the right idea, often recommended by wildlife rescues as a substitute nesting fix. You can wire the basket to the branches with bread twisties or picture wire or twine.

partyparty's avatar

Because the chicks are falling out of the nest, then I would say you have nothing to lose by intervening. Make sure mum isn’t around when you do it, they can be very protective.
Good luck, I hope it works out for you.

MissAusten's avatar

Well, I asked this question rather late last night, after dark, and my husband and I decided to try to make the nest more secure this morning. Unfortunately, when we got up this morning the entire nest had fallen out of the tree, and all four babies were on the ground. Alive, but cold. At least one of them was injured.

We put them back in the nest, but couldn’t put the nest back in the tree. We don’t have a strawberry basket right now, but put the nest in a box and set it under the tree. This was over an hour ago, and still no sign of the adult birds. We were hoping they’d come back and warm the babies up while we think of a way to get them back into the tree. I’m going to give it another shot, and maybe Mom and Dad will come back then.

I also have a call in to a wildlife rehabilitation center nearby that specializes in birds of prey. They also take in other injured birds, but I don’t know if baby robins are something they will take on. I’m waiting to hear back from them, and can also call a local Audubon store later this morning to see if they know anyone who can raise the birds if the adults don’t come back. It would be really hard to see my kids watch these baby birds die right outside our door.

Thanks for the suggestions, and I’ll keep you updated on our Saturday morning crisis!

Coloma's avatar

They cannot be left on the ground as they are sitting ducks for predator.

Either get them back up into the tree or bring them to the rescue. They will take them, every city has a bird rescue and this is baby bird season.
Optimally though, it would be best to get them back up in the tree, or, bring them inside. The parents shouldn’t ignore them for more than an hour or so at this stage, althoguh no harm will come if they are tended to again soon.

Good luck!

partyparty's avatar

@Coloma Yes I was going to say they would be prone to predators down on the ground.

MissAusten's avatar

Here’s the update: I talked to the lady who runs the bird sanctuary. The entire operation is in her house and back yard, and they mainly specialize in birds of prey BUT also take in other baby birds. Following her advice, I got the nest secured back in the tree and waited an hour to see if the parents came back. Even when we were putting the babies back in the nest and later get them back into the tree, we didn’t hear a peep from the parents. Usually they stay close and yell if you go near the nest. Anyway, after an hour of watching closely, we still didn’t see any sign of the parents.

After another call to the bird sanctuary, we decided to drive the babies over. We stopped along the way to buy meal worms, and as soon as we arrived the wonderful lady who runs the place started trying to get the babies to eat. Two of them had noticeable injuries. After a little while, she got two of the babies to eat and said she thought all of them would be OK with a little more coaxing. She had several other baby robins that seemed very angry at being ignored. :)

She also gave us a quick tour of the flight cages where they house birds of prey that have been injured and can’t be released. Several gorgeous hawks and owls, some not-so-lovely vultures, and quite a few big crows that seem to think they are human. I think I want to move in with her. The babies are in good hands now, and I’ll call to check on them in a couple of days. Thanks for the advice and suggestions!

gailcalled's avatar

@MissAusten: Wonderful story, wonderful lady and wonderful work. Does she have an Inc. non-profit business that you can make a donation to? Or gifts in kind?

partyparty's avatar

@MissAusten So pleased they are in caring hands, but without your help they may not have survived. I am sure you are feeling proud of yourself, you certainly should be.

MissAusten's avatar

@gailcalled Yes, the name is A Place Called Hope. They take donations through their website. Thank you for asking!

@partyparty Yes, I’m really happy with how things worked out. The credit really goes to my daughter, who remembered the name of this organization after visiting with her Girl Scout troop a couple of years ago. Calling them was her idea. I know sometimes you just have to let nature run its own course, but I don’t think I could have watched these birds slowly die right outside my front door with my kids looking on. If I’d seen the adult birds still caring for them, I would have been more than happy enough to let them stay in charge!

gailcalled's avatar

@MissAusten: Here at the volunteer animal rehab center, the woman who runs it welcomes extra pairs of hands (many high school students give several hours of their time every week), bags of feed, cleaning out stalls, building perches, and helping with whatever needs doing.

MissAusten's avatar

@gailcalled I’m sure they accept many forms of help and can let people know through email or a phone call what they need most at any given time. My daughter was just looking at their website and coming up with projects her troop can do for them in the future.

gailcalled's avatar

@MissAusten: Good karma for all.

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