A Death Comes to The Habitat

This robin’s nest is destined to be unfilled this season–at least by the robin parents who made it.  And while I have lots of pairs of robins hunting on the lawn for worms and other goodies, one solitary robin now hunts alone.

Do I know for sure this is my “mateless” male?  Of course not.  I can’t even tell the males from the females all that well.  But I do know that we lost a female to our pair of red-tail hawks (more about that in a minute) and it was the one that built the nest in the holly.

All week I had watched a pair of robins building this nest–although I think it was primarily the female doing the building.  It took quite some time to build–almost 5 days.  She shuttled from the safety of this holly to a maimed dogwood/japanese maple combination, and then out into the open yard for materials.  I didn’t watch her all that much–for one thing, I didn’t want to inhibit her behavior, and for another, I didn’t have the luxury of that much leisure time to do it.  But the holly was just outside The Spoiler’s den, which is the room we probably spend the most time in, so I did get to see her comings and goings quite a bit.

Last Friday when I came home, I took the dog into the yard.  We were just sort of wandering since it was one of the warmer days when I noticed the male red-tail taking off from our pine trees with some indistinguishable blackish bird chasing him.  I sort of smiled, thinking that it only took one bird to scare the male away whereas I usually see 3 or more harassing the female.

I should have been more astute because this bird was chasing the hawk like a rocket.  And I also sort of wondered at the time, because it really didn’t look like all the other birds that harass the hawks, like starlings, grackles, or crows.

Less than a minute later, the female followed the male out of the trees at a more leisurely pace.  Again, I was just thinking how cool it was that they had both been in the yard–nothing sinister on the radar–yet.

It was only later when I was fishing yet another non-swimming chipmunk out of the pond that I found the reason that the small bird was pursuing the male hawk so vigorously.  As I was walking to dispose of the poor little chipmunk corpse, I came upon the body of a headless (and heartless) female robin.  The damage to it is entirely consistent with raptor predation, especially when times are good.   When times are good, raptors (and owls) will eat the choicest bits of their prey and leave the rest.

So on Saturday, I had to dispose of poor Mama robin.  And this is how I know my nest will not see eggs this season.  So while I still think it’s totally cool that I had both the hawks in my yard at the same time, I do wish they hadn’t found Mama for lunch.

But last year we successfully fledged 3 broods of robins on the property.  With any luck, the next two pairs will survive and raise young.

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