There is a common misconception that robins will abandon their eggs if humans touch them. While it is true that robins are sensitive to disturbances, they will not necessarily leave their eggs if touched by a human. In fact, robins have been known to tolerate quite a bit of disturbance around their nests without deserting them.
This post will discuss why robins may abandon their eggs and how you can safely interact with them during nesting season.
Before we can understand why robins may abandon their eggs, we need to know a bit about their behaviour. Robins are territorial birds, and they will defend their nests vigorously. They also have a strong pair bond, and both parents share the responsibility of incubating the eggs and raising the chicks.
Unfortunately, robins only have a short lifespan of 13 months on average. There is also a relatively high mortality rate for robin chicks, with only a fraction of them surviving to adulthood. This may be one of the reasons why they are so protective of their nests and eggs – they want to make sure that as many chicks as possible survive.
Robins are breeders in early January up to March, producing about three to five broods, with about four to five eggs per brood. The eggs are incubated for about twelve to thirteen days. The young leave the nest at two weeks old but stay close by. They can fly short distances at four to five weeks old and are fully independent at six to eight weeks old.
Folklore tells us that if you touch a robin’s nest with your bare hands, it will abandon its eggs. However, this belief basically ignores these birds’ innate biology and behaviour to protect their young.
Various oncologists, experts on birds, have already made studies that birds will not abandon their eggs if touched, as long as they are not disturbed too much. When the young are hatched, the parent birds tend to be tenacious and will not leave until they are sure that their young can survive. Robins are no exception to this rule.
The myth that robins abandon their eggs if touched likely comes from a misunderstanding that birds can detect the scent of humans and that the eggs will be contaminated if they are touched. However, this is not true either. Birds do have small olfactory nerves, except birds with an extraordinary sense of smell, limiting their ability to smell. Studies have shown that the scent of humans does not bother birds, and in fact, they can’t even smell us.
Hence, the likelihood of a human scent causing them to abandon their eggs is relatively low. So unless you are deliberately trying to disturb a robin’s nest, there is no need to be worried that you will cause them to abandon their eggs.
Now that we have debunked the myth, you may be wondering how you can safely interact with robins during nesting season.
There are a few things to keep in mind when interacting with these birds. First and foremost, it is essential not to disturb them too much. Robins are very sensitive to disturbances and abandon their eggs if they feel too stressed.
Secondly, it is best not to touch the eggs or the nest itself. Although robins will not abandon their eggs if you touch them, it is still best to avoid doing so as much as possible. It is also essential to keep pets away from the nest – dogs and cats are known to scare away birds, disrupting the nesting process.
And finally, always remember to give the birds plenty of space. Do not attempt to touch them, as this can be quite dangerous for both you and the bird. This will help to minimise disturbances and keep the birds safe.
Although we have already clarified that robins will not abandon their eggs if touched by humans, there are times when you cannot see a robin near their nest. So, what causes these birds to leave their eggs?
There are a few reasons why robins might leave their nests. One reason is that the parents are hunting for food and will leave the nest for a short time. Sometimes, parents intentionally leave for long periods in order to lead predators away from the nest. This behaviour has been observed in other bird species and is usually a last resort measure to protect their young. For example, if there is an eagle or hawk nearby that threatens the nest, the parents will leave and hope that the young can survive on their own until they return. Other times, robins might abandon their eggs if there is a predator in the area posing an imminent threat.
It should also be noted that robins have a strong instinct of protecting their nests and eggs. However, in cases where the mother robin feels that it is impossible to protect her eggs, she will often abandon them. Competing birds could cause this, humans getting too close to the nest, or predators in the area.
Infestation of insects, such as ants, flies and mites, can also lead to robins abandoning their eggs. In some cases, the parents will continue to incubate the eggs, which puts the young chicks at risk because the insects will eventually kill them. If the parents determine a high chance of their offspring dying, they will often abandon the eggs.
In conclusion, while it is true that robins are sensitive to disturbances, they will not necessarily abandon their eggs if touched by a human. There are a variety of reasons why robins might abandon their eggs, but the likelihood that a human caused it is close to none. Always be sure to give the birds plenty of space and avoid disturbing them as much as possible. And if you do see a robin near their nest, simply observe from a distance and enjoy the sight.