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Name: Sandy
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We had a nest on a low branch in a tree and were delighted to watch the eggs hatch and the baby birds were starting to grow and get few feathers. The nest is now empty and the mother bird does not return. There is no evidence of "foul play" from another creature- no feathers- bones, fur etc. Could the mother robin have relocated her babies? What do the babies, how developed are the baby robins when they go off on their own?

If the robin nestlings were not mature enough to fly, it can be assumed that the nest witnessed foul play by a predator or human. There are several predatory possibilities including raptors (owls or hawks), raccoons, cats, and others depending on your exact location. Robins often choose nest sites on limbs too weak for raccoons and cats. Several predators would consume the chicks whole so no feathers would be seen, but feathers are usually present if a natural predator is involved. Human interference in capture may leave little signs. Of course, in your case, we do not know for sure what happened.

The female robin could not have moved the chicks to a different location. However, adult robins will try to detour predators from their nest site if they can by using a fake injury behavior as if the females wing was broken, or make a lot of noise and lead the animal away from the nest. Females will even remove the egg shells after hatching to a far away location and collect the fecal pouches the young deposit and drop them far from the nest site. Both of these behaviors are to avoid detection of the nest site. Yes, the young birds deposit their waste in little pouches!

If the birds were mature, the fledglings would have stayed near the nest tree being fed by the parents for the first day so you would have noticed them I am pretty certain, unless their is significant places to hide. The parents would led them to a safe location. The chicks leave at different times for they rarely develop at the same rate so a quickly empty nest is suspect. They would be seen following one of the parents around begging for food until the parents stop responding to their food requests and they are then on their own. Young robins have a distinct speckled breast that adults do not show.

Steve Sample

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