6/20/10

Batman? Little help here?

I walked out onto my porch a couple of weeks ago, and a bird flew right by my head. It was a robin, and it sat on top of the garage roof and scolded me. I was wondering why, until I noticed that she had made a nest on the porch, in a flower pot we had hanging on the porch post:


I don't know why she would make the nest there -- it was basically in the open and any critter that wanted an easy meal could just hop up on the railing and chow down. I mean, I myself wouldn't eat them because they look like they'd probably be a little prickly going down, but there are cats in the neighborhood.

The proud parents were feeding them non-stop, and it was the first time I had ever witnessed this up close and personal, and trust me, you would not want to eat any of the things the adult robins brought home for dinner. Earthworms? Not so much. Nasty looking green grubs and weird looking insects -- I have no clue where the hell they were digging these things up, but dear god -- it was like stuff from another planet.

I found the whole thing fascinating, so I set my tripod and camera up next to the window, and whenever I thought about it, I'd snap a few shots. It was pretty incredible how fast they grew -- in just a few days they went from barely being able to hold their heads up, to this:



Here's an example of a fine gourmet meal:


After a few days of this, I noticed something odd. The babies would take the food, and then they would... well...give something back. It happened very quickly, so the first time, I thought I imagined it. After I saw it for the third time, I was sure. There was a split second where the adult robin would duck her head down, and quickly grab something, then swallow it. I managed to get a shot of it happening:



It looked like a fuzzball, or some compacted down or something. I figured maybe the fuzzy hair from the chicks was building up in the bottom. So I looked it up on the internet.

Big mistake.

Each newborn defecates within seconds of feeding. Four baby birds defecating forty times a day is a big mess. Although nestlings don’t come with diapers, Mother Nature understands the health risks of a nest littered with droppings and created the next best thing.


Each of the approximate one hundred sixty daily droppings comes neatly enclosed in a white, translucent sac known as a fecal sac. This eliminates a nest painted white from droppings; but now the parents have to get rid of the bouncing sacs. They are able to rid the nest of the bagged poop, conveniently deposited directly into their mouths right after feeding, before they leave to find more food. Since the fecal sacs are devoid of bacteria, the adult robins simply eat them.


So there you go. We have bouncing fecal sacs, straight from the tap and swallowed whole.

I'm sure many of you already knew this little tidbit, however I did not. In fact, I am pretty sure I would have been perfectly happy not knowing this for the rest of my life.

I will never again be able to see a robin hopping happily across my yard without immediately thinking about it chowing down on a steamy-fresh, conveniently packaged bag of poop.

Realistically, I knew the poop has to go somewhere, but still. Not what I expected.

Here's a picture of them right before they were fully-fledged, about two weeks after they hatched:


They don't look like they'd have filthy habits, do they? It's kind of like discovering Hugh Grant likes cheap hookers.

Here's a shot of the last fully-catered meal:


The first two chicks took off within minutes of each other, but this last guy was a chicken, and didn't leave the nest until much later in the day. I think he was annoyed with me pointing the camera at him every five minutes:


It was kind of sad to see them go, but at least we can use our side door again. Around five pm on the same night they all left the nest, I heard a commotion outside -- the robins were all screaming at the top of their lungs. I went out onto the back deck and looked up at the tree all the baby robins had flown to, and there was a red-tailed hawk sitting there eying his dinner.

Ah, the circle of life. Normally, I wouldn't care, and I think hawks are just about the coolest birds on the planet, but I had too much invested in these little guys to let the circle be quite that small -- so I chased the hawk away. I know, I know. Between chauffeuring chipmunks around and protecting baby birds, I'm turning into frikkin' St. Francis of Assisi.

I think I'm gonna have to go kill something to rebuild my street cred.




37 comments:

  1. LOL LOL, St.Francis of Assisi...that was classic. What a great post. I learned something and laughed too. Now that's a good post. So then what happened with you chauffering chipmunks? Did I miss a post?

    Hmmm...I do hope robins are the only ones who do this pooh eating thing...cuz I really love chicken. EEEWWW

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  2. Wow this was a switch of Topic for you but I enjoyed it anyway! Great pictures--that bit about the poop--no I don't think very many people know or realize that. EWWW!

    Chief Blonde
    Still Blonde after all these YEARS

    http://www.stillblondeafteralltheseyears.com/

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  3. I've only just started following this blog, but I must say, I'm enjoying the few minutes I get to spend reading it.....and laughing all the way.

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  4. What a truly wonderful set of photos and story. No, I did not know that. It's fascinating. Nature provides/

    Father's Day seems most appropriate for your post.

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  5. rosetta stone11:45 PM

    We had redwings nesting in a large pine tree every year, up until we had to cut it down. We couldn't get out during winter without the tree branches trying to hug us. Huge storm which managed to tear down another three in the garden also convinced us. Better cut the tree down instead of it coming down on the house.

    But more amusing nesting story. There was a small basketball hoop above our (guest) front door. Redwing decided it would be perfect for nesting. The first attempt fell through the net, and the second attempt was then made on top of the plank the hoop was rested on.

    Redwings are a bitch defending their nest. While the main entrance for the family was actually the back entrance, the paperboy and the mailman did not have happy visits those weeks :3

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  6. So happy to read about robins actually succeeding in getting their chicks fledged. Not one successful nest out in my neighborhood. I'm wondering if there is a virus killing baby robins. Makes me sad because the parents seem to work so hard (at eating feces). Great photos though. We had a pair of killdeer successfully raise a clutch. I think it's the same pair every year because they've made their nest in the exact spot for the past three years. Have to put up a traffic cone by thier nest to keep from driving over it. Nice to get my driveway back!

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  7. Let me know if you are taking names for the kill list. I live a long way away - so no one would suspect you at all. Love your shit stories

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  8. Sac of Shit. Not where I expected that term to come from.

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  9. Thanks for sharing the cool pics. We just moved to upstate New York last year and it's beautiful. The little critters are off the hook. We have the chipmunks too, they eat the seed from the bird feeders. Also a cracked out crazy guinea hen that tries to come in the house. The deer are pretty amazing too, until they run in front of your car. Been reading you for years, keep up the good work, JV.

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  10. My eyes! My eyes!!!! I did NOT need to read about bouncing poop sacks.

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  11. OMG those pics are fabulous!!!
    Though, I could have done without the poo sacs . . . .wow. I will NEVER look at a robin the same way . . .

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  12. Wiredoxiemom11:13 AM

    Could not leave well enough alone could you? Great blog, oh look at the baby birds, how sweet....then it had to turn ugly with the "sacks o shit". Thanks for sharing. Serious though, great story and pics. BTW - OK to leave the killing for the "real (not) men"!!!

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  13. I too have a robins nest in my kids swing set. I was happy to let the kids back up in their 'club house' after the babies flew away. I rescued one baby from my stalking Golden Retriever (who has never shown a damn bit of interest in any wildlife in his eleven years).
    Here's the problem: There are now 3 more robins eggs in the nest. WTF?

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  14. Love this post. Amazing set of photos and incredibly funny at the same time. Keep up the great writing!

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  15. Gee, I am so glad I chose to read this before lunch - NOT! Ylech! But thanks for the giggles just the same! Don't you wish other breeds had a similar sac?

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  16. Ummm...yuk. I really thought the next line was going to be, "and then the parent bird takes the fecal sac away." Oh well, it's really not that much different than what cats and dogs do with their newborns...
    Anyway, the last picture of the baby with the attitude cracked me up.
    It reminded me of the last time you took pictures of the baby birds, with the one glaring at you... so funny.
    Great job, as usual.

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  17. Emily2:27 PM

    I'm gonna take a wild guess and say NO ONE knows that mama birds eat their baby bird's poop! Except for experts of course. Awesome pictures... especially the second one. You should submit it to something or other.

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  18. EWWWW poop and Chipmunk nutsacs. Fantastic for our weight loss program. Thanks.

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  19. I agree with Emily - those are beautiful pictures and could surely win a prize at Robin Monthly Digest or something. Also, I never really thought about the term "fully-fledged". Nice use of actual meaning.

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  20. Cool post. Hey, I saw a really gross looking centipede thing in the basement yesterday when I was down getting a box of Kleenex. You can come over and kill that if you really want to kill something! or just send your Mama bird over.

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  21. cool post - some Great shots
    not sure that i ever wanted to know about the nappy sack/snack thing. thanks.

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  22. You just had to share, didn't you? I've got gross nature facts, too, you know. Don't make me pull them out. Great pics.

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  23. My sister had a robin's nest in a basket that she had hanging on her front door. She couldn't use the door for weeks and had to put up a sign so that the mailman and paperboy wouldn't use it and disturb the nest. She thought the whole experience was nice, so I'm quite sure that she doesn't know about the poop sacs. I'm still deciding whether I should tell her!

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  24. I love the photos you made. Thanks so much for sharing them with us. The birds are so cute and watching them grow was amazing.

    A little tiny bird built a nest in a birdhouse on my back porch, but as soon as they hatched, the neighbor's cat got them. Yes, the circle of life is sometimes cruel, but I'm happy that you saw the hawk and chased it away.

    You're a good man, Johnny V. :)

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  25. Thanks, I think for letting me know about the poo sacks. I had never thought about it, and like you, hope I can stop thinking about it soon.

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  26. Haha I really enjoyed this post!
    Except for maybe the poop part. That part is...well I'm so glad that us human beings don't have to dispose of baby poo that way. I'll stick with diapers.

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  27. Awww so sweet!!! You'll be getting your own chickens next! Didn't know that about the fecal sac, gross. I bet I think of that the next time I see a bloody robin, and know exactly who to blame :D

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  28. Okay. Cutest thing ever. (Well, except for the birds eating fecal sacs. That is not so cute. Not even if Justin Bieber does it. ESPECIALLY if Justin Bieber does it.)

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  29. FANTASTIC pics! Your posts always put a happier spin on my day, even when there is shit eating involved.

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  30. This post was awesome and so (maybe too) informative! The baby robin pics were great and even though I love hawks I'm glad you helped the birds survive their first night in the wild. Yours is the second blog I've read that had robins nesting in flower pots on porches or decks. Maybe it's a new trend in bird housing?

    And Johnny? No need to kill anything, after your last post we know that you are a bad-ass knife carrying assassin!

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  31. Ewww, ewww, ewww! But yet so fascinating....

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  32. This post was.... informative.

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  33. Brittany4:40 PM

    awesome blog. love it.

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  34. I always enjoy your blog, and this one was no exception. It's not what I was expecting, but I loved it! The pictures are completely awesome.

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  35. Absolutely awesome photos. Poop doesn't bother me none, even poop eaten by mom and dad. Excellent post!!

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  36. Great article and pictures. My husband and I have just experienced a similar event and I was going to look into robin behavior. You saved me the trouble and it was very enjoyable reading.

    Thanks
    Rose

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  37. this post is too funny!! bouncing fecal sacs for dessert? - great conversation starter :)the pics were great too!

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