February 2018

Fledgling birds cry ‘feed me’

This was posted originally at Indiana Living Green in June, 2008

 You don’t have to be terribly alert to realize that this is fledgling time for birds. You only have to listen. Then, you see.

fledgling-robin-istock_000003348153For the last week, baby robins have been perched in the dogwoods squawking ‘feed me, feed me’ and fluttering their wings to get their parents’ attention.

The babies look a bit unkempt as they shed their wispy fledgling down for their sturdy adults feathers. Their breasts will loose their speckles and take on the orange huge of the adult. The babies are still a bit unsteady on their feet and on the wing, frequently stumbling on take off or overshooting the branch.

Young, inexperienced birds are slower to react to potential dangers, too. Yesterday, I let the dogs out and there was a baby robin in one of the birdbaths. It sat there and let the dogs walk by before flying off to a tree branch. Little did robin know that the dogs have experience at snagging baby birds from their baths or the bush.

The American robin (Turdus migratorius) produces up to three broods a year, each with three or four pretty turquoise eggs — called robin egg blue. Robins nest from the ground to treetops and everything in between, including hanging baskets and window boxes. Robins seem to be the first ones to try out the fresh water in birdbaths, the lawn sprinkler or other water sources. They do love to bathe.

Robins are commonplace in urban and suburban landscapes, frequently seen eyeing the ground and pouncing when they see a worm. Because robins forage on lawns, they are “vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution,” according to the Cornell Lab or Ornithology.

And though we think of robins as worm eating birds, these orange-breasted members of the thrush family actually rely on berries, such as cherries, viburnum and pokeweed. In fact, fruit is their primary food in cold weather. It’s not uncommon for robins to spend the winter in Indiana instead of migrating south.

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