A New Family in the Hood

For a few recent weeks, coming to work has been rather magical: Orchestrating the opening of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s 3D cinema is an exciting task to be sure, but seeing a family of American Robins take up house a few feet from me is equally so.

Around three weeks ago, an American Robin decided to build its nest on my window ledge (at the museum’s research and collections facility). I saw it perch there a few times, and before I knew it, there was a nest. The speed at which a robin can settle in when it feels at home is incredible! Honestly, I thought I was dealing with a nest-robber at first, but Michel Gosselin, our ornithologist here at the museum, assured me that robins are quick and efficient builders.

A few days later, four lovely little blue eggs were waiting for me.

Four eggs in the nest of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) sitting on a window ledge.

Nest of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) and its four eggs. Image: Russ Brooks © Canadian Museum of Nature

I decided to put my 3D HD video camera to work… But, as soon as I tried to approach the nest with my camera, the bird flew away. And who could blame it? I’d be afraid of a giant peering over my house too! So I set up a visual barrier using the dark, translucent window shade, a box of business cards and empty DVD cases. A true luxury studio for the family-to-be!

View of the camera set-up inside Pierre's window.

The camera forms part of the temporary screen that prevented the adult bird from being startled by the sight of movement. Image: Russ Brooks © Canadian Museum of Nature

Because I didn’t want to miss the hatching of the eggs, I read up on the fast-motion effects of my camera. Unfortunately, I missed the hatching of the first three eggs, but I still managed to capture most of the hatching of the last egg through to when the fourth and final nestling took flight.

The video below is a compilation that covers the period from June 17 to July 11, 2011. It contains photographs, a few scenes in real time and segments in fast motion that were created using images taken every 80 seconds.

And there’s a bonus! Because the nest is partially illuminated at night, you can see all the work the mother bird had to do—day and night—to care for the eggs and chicks. She really had no time to rest!

The adult American Robin and chicks in their nest.

Image: Pierre Poirier © Canadian Museum of Nature

A bit of a damper: One of the baby robins fell from the nest around July 4, when it was still too young to fly. Because the parents did not seem to be feeding it after it fell, my colleague Russ Brooks from the web team was kind enough to take it to the Wild Bird Care Centre in Ottawa. Last we heard, the little bird was doing better and will be ready for its first flight in the next few days. I hope that its brothers and sisters will like the neighbourhood! After all, we’re excellent neighbours…

A young American robin sitting in cotton batting in a cardboard box.

The young robin that fell from the nest. Image: Russ Brooks © Canadian Museum of Nature

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