The birds that regularly nest in the yard — American robins, eastern phoebes, Baltimore orioles — appear to have hatched their first broods for the season.
The phoebe’s nest atop the light fixture on my mom’s quilting shop has at least two chicks visible, with possibly a third tucked away, although the nest doesn’t seem big enough for triplets.
The robins have set up in a crabapple tree just outside the kitchen window, the same tree that was used for nesting two years ago but not last year.
Yet it points to a trend — birds coming back not just to the yard but to the same nest site, year after year. Are they the same individuals, returning because they previously had success in this setting?
For robins and phoebes, the answer is yes, they’re probably the same birds, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website, www.allaboutbirds.org.
Phoebes have adapted, even thrived, to having buildings in their habitat by favoring nesting sites under roof eaves or overhangs, protected from the elements and perhaps predators. If they find a good site, it may take five to 14 days to construct a nest from mud, moss, leaves, grasses, hair and other materials, according to All About Birds.
So reusing a nest saves some time, especially if it’s proven to be one that’s worked before. Same goes for the robins and barn swallows; in fact, phoebes and barn swallows may convert each other’s old nests to their use, the All About Bird website states.
The phoebes lay two to six eggs per clutch and can produce up to two broods; we had two nests that yielded fledglings last year and no reason to think they won’t do the same this year given these chicks will mature quickly, ready to leave the nest at roughly 20 days.
The robins are even more fertile, capable of clutches of three to five eggs and cranking out as many as three broods in a summer, with nestlings good to go after roughly two weeks.
While both migrate each fall — though some robins may linger farther north if they have a reliable food source — they don’t travel far, usually to forests in the southern United States.
This is why they are among the first birds to return in the spring or even late winter if conditions allow.
Orioles, too, are inclined to come back to the same areas year after year but don’t tend to reuse past nests. They will, however, recycle old nesting materials to build their unique, woven pouch-like nests that hang high in trees, according to All About Birds. They bear only one brood, with three to seven eggs.
Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 240, or email@example.com.