Non-birders could watch these robins all day
It used to be that I could write everything I know about birds on a grain of rice. Now, here I am, writing a column about birds. Apparently, birding is a popular hobby, but not something I have done, nor plan to do. Except for the family of robins that has claimed a tree in our yard as their home.
First of all, I know nothing about the habits of migratory birds but, as Yogi Berra once said: “You can observe a lot by watching.” And that’s what we do as we sit on our side deck, enjoying a glass of wine before dinner. We watch this family of robins go through their daily routines.
As I write this, Mama Robin is sitting on this summer’s second batch of eggs. Papa Robin is hard at work, providing worms from our garden to keep up her strength. (Their previous offspring are still around but, whatever their jobs are, they don’t seem to include finding worms for mom.) Once the new chicks hatch, both parents will go worming, spelling one another off in the nest.
I wish I could do justice to describing what Carol and I have dubbed the “Predator Dance,” performed by the husband before he gives the worm to the missus. First, he sits on the fence, worm dangling from his mouth. When he figures there are no predators watching, he jumps down onto the lawn. But, just in case, he doesn’t go directly to the nest; he scurries along the grass maybe a half-dozen steps; stops and remains motionless for a few seconds, repeats the process and then, when he thinks there’s no threat, he shoots up into the nest.
A bit of research tells me there are American Robins, European Robins and Indian Robins. I guess we have Canadian Robins in our backyard and I’m sure you have unanswered questions about robins that keep you awake nights. For example:
Do robins migrate south in the winter? Yes, but not always to warm climates. Their migration is more in response to food than to temperature. Fruit is the robins’ winter food source, so maybe they just get as far as Oliver or Osoyoos.
Do robins use the same nest year after year? Generally, no, but if they have nesting success in a place, they will often return there, which is what we believe our robins have done for three or four years now.
Are robins monogamous? Yes, during the breeding season, though the female might look for a new mate if something happens to her first mate.
We have gone from not giving a hoot about birds to being fascinated by our robins, how hard they work, how devoted they are to one another and how much smarter they are than other robins in the Okanagan. If that paints us as easily charmed, we’re OK with that.
Fred Trainor lives in Okanagan Falls. Email: email@example.com