Wildlife Column: Robins are still busy in the garden
The local robins seemed to fledge their first broods quite early this year. Young birds, looking similar to adults but with speckled breasts rather that the mature red, are carefully tended by their parents for three to four weeks after they fledge.
Very often the fledged young are cared for solely by the adult male because the female is busy preparing herself for the big next effort in nesting. Generally, robins have two broods per year but in a good season there may be three successful broods, and sometimes even four may be known. The multiple broods mean a long breeding season with nestlings found until late July and the first ones may have been around in early April. However, there are often significant losses during the earlier stages of each cycle of eggs and chicks. Indeed, only about fifty-seven percent of eggs from completed clutches actually result in youngsters successfully fledged. Another consequence of this hectic lifestyle is that by the end of the summer the poor old adults are often worn out and you will see them tired and bedraggled. After a short, quiet period in August then the process begins again with birds aggressively defending their winter territories.
By late winter the robins will be back on their breeding territories and raring to go again, unless worn down by the efforts of survival and success, they have succumbed to the rigours of winter.
If this is the case, then their place will quickly be taken by a younger bird, perhaps one of the successfully fledged youngsters from the previous season. There is always a pool of birds trying to find their own space to set up territory, attract a mate and raise a family; and the cycle goes on.
In the garden my local robin will follow me around awaiting titbits such as dried mealworms or perhaps a juicy earthworm if I disturb leave-mould or soils whilst gardening. I always wonder if it is the same bird – I like to think so as it certainly looks the same but maybe not.
Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer & broadcaster on wildlife & environmental issues has a blog at https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/ and can be contacted on Twitter @IanThewildside