May 17 2011

The Sound of Baby Robins

Published by at 7:00 am under Nesting & Courtship


“Prrruurrpp!”   “Prruurrpp! ”

Last week I heard this sound for the first time this year.  It emanates from a low branch or a dense bush, sometimes from the ground.

“Prrruurrpp!”  is the sound of a newly fledged baby robin, begging for food.  The first batch of robins has fledged.

Baby robins always look vulnerable with their short frowning beaks, short tails, short wings and fluff-tufted heads. 

Indeed they are.  They don’t fly well and they make loud noises that could draw unwanted, predatory attention.  But for a baby robin, the noise is necessary.  It tells their parents, “Here I am and I’m hungry.” 

Don’t rescue these baby robins.  Their parents have not abandoned them.  The adults are gathering food nearby, rushing around collecting beakfuls of worms and bugs.  The noise tells them where to deliver it.

If you listen closely you can hear when food arrives.  The “Prrruurrpp!” is replaced by very loud cheeping and then a moment of silence.  Ahhhh!

Though there’s high mortality in the nesting through fledging stage, robins make up for it by laying three to five eggs per clutch and nesting two or three times per year.  The baby robin pictured above is probably from the second or third nesting since he’s perched among summer flowers.

In the end, more than enough baby robins survive to migrate with their parents in the fall.

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “The Sound of Baby Robins”

  1. Peteron 17 May 2011 at 8:18 am

    Well, whaddya know! I started seeing these guys last week too. For three straight days I saw this guy outside the building where I work when I left in the evening. I didn’t recognize the call at first, which is why I went looking. But, like you said it really does draw unnecessary attention so I was able to find him pretty quickly. I happened to take a short video with my phone…the picture isn’t great, but you can hear him screaming for more food just as you’ve described.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bPBMexfH20

    I also snapped some pictures – this one has that characteristic fluff-tufted head you describe! http://www.flickr.com/photos/87087391@N00/5730094100/in/photostream/

  2. Kathyon 17 May 2011 at 10:31 am

    I have heard this when walking the dog in the am and see robins scurrying all over the place. They make me smile because they lower down before “taking off” in a dash across the lawn and then they bob right up when they stop. Must be where the lyrics “When the red, red robin comes bob, bob bobbin along” came from! Have a great day everyone!

  3. Anne Marieon 17 May 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Peter – cute robin pictures… but I have a question about the chicken/rooster you filmed near your parking lot. I understand wild turkeys making their way into Oakland, but chickens? where did it come from?

  4. Peteron 18 May 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Anne Marie – I *wish* i knew where it came from. If it had been the turkey my friend had said was out there I probably would have checked it out and maybe watched a bit then turned around and gone back to work. But a chicken?!?! they’re NOT supposed to be wandering around campus. There wasn’t a petting zoo on the cathedral lawn. This chicken was so blasé that I took some photos with my phone, then decided I had to run up to my desk to get my camera. And by the time I returned…still just strutting her (I think) stuff.

    I never have investigated more what kind it was. I thought the tail was cool since it was almost like it was folded up. It appeared narrow from the front or behind, but was more bird-tail like from the sides. you can see this a bit in the video. I have pictures somewhere that probably show it better.

    But whatever the case – good question! And where did it go?

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