Great Bend resident Helen Asher has new neighbors.
Well, new house guests might be a better description. A family of robins has made its home in her bedroom window sill.
“I’ve become so attached to them,” Asher said. She tip-toes around the house and is careful about turning on the bedroom lights for fear of disturbing the mother.
“I’m reading all about birds,” she said. “I’m really getting interested in this.”
She has also become their guardian, shooing away circling blackbirds who might invade the nest. “I’ve been widowed for 13 years. It has become my life taking care of these birds,” she said.
The nest first showed up about two weeks ago. “I was going to destroy it,” she said.
But, before she knew it, the mom was making herself comfortable. Then, last Sunday, the first egg appeared, followed by the next three this week.
The ubiquitous robin is more than a symbol of spring. It lives an interesting life.
We see the birds year around. But, “the robins we see in winter are not our robins,” said Pam Martin, educator at the Kansas Wetlands Eduction Center.
The cold-weather birds are northern robins from such places as Canada. They migrate here for the area’s relatively balmy temperatures.
“Our robins return in the spring,” Martin said. Although some stick around all year, most have spent the winter further south.
They normally nest in the lower half of a tree, but they are not terribly intimidated by humans. They are known to make their homes in man-made structures, such as pergolas and porches.
After the females select the nesting location, the building begins. The nests consist of a mud cup packed with twigs and grass then lined with dried grass to create a soft bed for the young birds.
The mothers will lay three to five eggs each spring. About two weeks later, the babies hatch.
Hatchlings are “altricial” at birth, Martin said. “They are blind, have no feathers and are helpless.”
However, Martin said, only about 40 percent of the couples produce young and only about a quarter of the babies survive until November. If they survive, they can live up to 14 years.
As for their diets, “what they eat depends on the time of day,” she said. In the mornings they eat more worms when they are easier to get, and later in the day, they eat more fruits.
Because they feed in lawns, they are susceptible to pesticides.
When they are not nesting, robins often roost together in large numbers, as many as a quarter of a million, Martin said.