You’ve Likely Hosted More Nesting Robins Than You Think

Due to a high mortality rate, these yard regulars often take on new partners.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

This is BirdNote.

Let’s assume for a moment that you have a yard that a pair of robins has nested in for 12 years. You may be surprised to learn that it hasn’t always been the same pair! Mortality rate is high in our familiar songbirds. For robins, it’s around 50% each year once young birds have fledged.

If a robin survives to midwinter, it lives an average of 1.7 years after that. The oldest robins in your yard might be about six years old, although one banded bird lived almost 14 years.
So in a dozen years you've probably had at least a half-dozen robins of each sex involved in nesting. 

Robins and most other migratory birds don't maintain their pair bonds over the winter, so they mate anew each spring. But if the same male and female return to the same territory, they are very likely to mate again.

If the male has died, another male will likely take over the territory, and the living female may mate with him. Similarly, if the female has died, a new female will mate with the resident male. They may nest in the same shrub, if it's a favorable nesting spot, and to our eyes it looks as if the same pair of robins has returned.

To learn more, come to I’m Mary McCann.



Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Written by Dennis Paulson

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Call of the American Robin provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song recorded by W.L. Hershberger. Call by R.S. Little.

Ambient recording by Kessler Productions.

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ID# AMRO-10         AMRO-10-2010-03-23-MM