The American robin, which is scientifically known as the Turdus migratorius, is among the early signs of spring. This New World songbird migrates religiously to the warmer parts of the continent and only returns when the weather changes.
American robins are named after smaller birds with the same appearance; the European robins. The early settlers didn’t miss the rust-colored breast feathers in both species. The American robin is much larger though, as it belongs to the thrushes.
Being a big bird means that robins would have special nesting requirements. So, do robins use bird houses? The answer is Mostly no, and here’s why.
Most birds seem to be happy to find a nice dwelling in your backyard. And since the chirrupy American robin is frequently around, many people expect it to build its nest in one of these wooden bird houses.
This doesn’t work out though. There are some pretty good reasons why robins wouldn’t use regular bird houses as residences. Here are some of them.
- The robin’s size is a major obstacle that keeps it from using ordinary bird houses. Its length is 10 inches on average, with a wingspan up to 15 inches, and a weight of 3 ounces.
- In nature, robins build their nests on thick branches, hillsides, or on the ledges of buildings. They aren’t the type that’s fond of crevices or tree holes, which is what we refer to as cavity nesters.
- Robins often like to survey their surroundings. This is a trait that many birds have, especially when there are many predators in their area.
A closed bird house doesn’t provide that option.
- The open nest allows robins to scout for food before even flying out to get it. They can pinpoint where they can find berries, and whether or not the ground below could have some delicious worms.
- The robin’s nest is made from several materials that the bird finally binds with mud. This elaborate building process would be extremely difficult inside a bird house.
Installing nesting shelves for robins might appear to be a simple matter. However, these birds have particular needs when it comes to picking a home.
There’s a lot to know through observing robins in their natural habitat and experimenting with the birds that settle down in residential places. These efforts led to some interesting conclusions about the robins’ temperament, preferences, and habits.
Housing a robin requires some knowledge about its likes and dislikes. Here are some of the points you’d need to consider as you try to attract robins to your backyard.
- Robins like to see their surroundings, so keep the sides thin. An extension of 3 inches from the back side is sufficient.
- You need to protect them from the wind or being spotted by a predator, but at the same time try to keep their vision unblocked.
- A slanting awning is better than a flat one to protect the robins from seasonal rain.
- Drill a few holes in the base of the nesting shelf to get rid of any rainwater. Robins wouldn’t be able to nest in a wet shelf.
- Installing the robin’s ledge near berry trees, or places where it would finds insects easily, is a big plus. Robins would also benefit from having bird feeders near by.
- If you can place the robin’s nesting shelf away from the wind direction, that would be great. A bit of shade and being out of the heavy winds would make the robin’s nesting shelf more comfy.
- Robins need various materials to build a nest. If you can place their ledge in the proximity of little twigs, animal hair, leaves, grass blades, and mud, that would be great.
In nature, a robin would build a relatively large nest, approximately eight inches in diameter. It would add some height to it, so it often looks like a salad bowl when it’s done.
This is usually the optimal size that would fit the brooding robin and her eggs comfortably. Later on, it would be wide enough for the hatchlings to grow in a healthy manner.
Based on the observed robin nest sizes, the nesting shelf should be around 8 x 8 inches, with a height of 7 inches.
The back is usually made from a solid board or piece of tree bark. Adding a couple of thin sides is optional. But if you decide to do so, then you should limit their width to 3 inches.
Robins are smart little birds. Over time, they realized that if they live near humans, predators would stay away from them. That’s why they often build nests on rooftops, below eaves, inside awnings, and on lamposts.
It’s worth noting though that robins don’t appreciate consistent intrusion into their personal space. Thus, you can place their nesting shelves around the house, but still, make sure it’s in a quiet spot somewhat out of the way.
Additionally, robins are territorial birds. They prefer being the sole rulers of their domains. It’s best then to keep their nesting shelves far from one another.
Also, keep the shelves at a proper distance from any other bird houses. Robins can become pretty hostile if they feel that other birds are challenging their authority. Leaving a distance of around 65 feet between bird houses is recommended.
In nature, robins build their nests on tall tree branches, in rock crevices, or at the ledges of mountains.
These birds aren’t afraid of heights. In fact, they relish having extra altitude to stay away from ground-dwelling predators. A height of 5-25 feet is often good.
It’s important to keep the nesting shelf accessible to you, as you’d need to clean up the used nest from time to time. That’s because robins don’t like reusing an old nest.
There are several educational organizations, avian life research centers, and birdwatching groups that provide layouts for robin bird houses. Most of them are available online.
If you’re into carpentry, you can DIY a robin nesting shelf. Otherwise, there are plenty of real and online vendors that sell ready-made shelves.
The cost of making a shelving nest for robins rarely exceeds the $20 mark. The price of premium wood and paint might push this figure up a bit.
Still, it would be less than buying a ready-made nesting shelf. The prices of these range from $40 to around $120.
Robins are lovely little birds that spend the spring singing, impressing their mates, and feasting on fruits and plump insects.
The females are meticulous builders that take their time in creating the perfect nest. They use any and all materials they can source from nature, starting from the inside out.
When they’re done building a part of the nest, they fortify it with worm castings. And when the nest is finished, they line it with soft grass and feathers.
This elaborate process of nest building, together with the lifestyle of robins make it hard for them to live in a regular bird house. It’s best to offer them a nesting shelf strategically placed around their favorite food.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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