Counting your chicks

For the last month, I’ve been watching a robin’s nest that sits on the sill of an eyebrow window at our house. I’ve been able to directly observe everything from four perfect eggs to four pathetic-looking naked chicks to four gaping mouths, begging for their parents to stuff them full of moths and worms. Last Sunday I made this ink sketch, added a bit of color on Monday night, and figured I finish the page later this week. But even when you count your chicks before and after they hatch, it doesn’t mean things will turn out well.


I expected to see four jostling chicks with feathers today and instead found a perfectly empty nest. I checked the calendar, checked my nest records, checked reference books, and checked again. Eleven days…just shy of the 14 to 16 days that it typically takes for nestling robins to fledge. My suspicion is that an owl made off with a nice meal. Although the birds were protected from ground predators, they were otherwise completely exposed, especially as they grew larger and began to overflow the bounds of the nest. It’s an unfortunate fate…unless, of course, you take the owl’s perspective.

Tips: If you are observing nesting birds, it’s a good idea to follow a birding code of conduct to make sure you don’t disturb the birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology NestWatch program is a good place to learn and to contribute your findings.

22 Comments on “Counting your chicks

  1. Always sad to see this but know that Mother Nature has her own plan… Your art is wonderful as always! 🐦💕

    • We have great horned owls and barred owls nearby…and, I suspect, screech owls, too. Its a treat to hear them…but maybe they could stick to the abundance of squirrels.

  2. Oh dear. I too was watching a nest of babies….. some tiny house wrens who’s mamma had the most beautiful song! The babies were just at the point of venturing out of the nest… and when I got home that evening, they were all gone… my neighbor reported seeing crows on the ground under the nest… and I made the obvious connection. Mother Nature can indeed be cruel! Your sketch is a lovely way to preserve their memory.

    • Thanks for sharing your tale. I find it fascinating that, in many cases, the nestlings are snatched just a few days before fledging. They are certainly meatier then, and just as helpless as when they hatch. I’ve seen this with osprey predation, too. We don’t have many crows, so that’s why I don’t think it as likely that they are the culprits.

  3. You captured their hungry little mouths perfectly. A sad reality to be sure. We experienced the same thing a few years back. We waited in keen anticipation. Only to be saddened that a local cat raided the nest. So goes the natural world around us.

  4. Awwww. I’m so sorry. But You’re right. And maybe somewhere in bird land a plump little owl is posting about the wonderful meal she provided for her babies. It’s wild isn’t it?!! On and on and on we go. Your drawing of the baby birds is one of the sweetest things ever! Sending hugs. Thank You!!! 💖

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