West Midland Bird Club

'Robins rearing two broods in an unusual 'screened' nest, 1957'

This article, by a then-prominent member of the Club, first appeared in ‘British Birds’ volume 50:11 (page 492), in November 1957. 

Bird and place names were spelt as shown. For their current status, please see our county lists.


Robins rearing two broods in an unusual 'screened' nest. — On 8th March 1957, in a garden at Malvern, Worcestershire, I found that a pair of Robins (Erithacus rubecula) were using the same nest-site in which a brood of five had been safely reared in 1956. This was 3½ feet above the ground, in a hollow in a pollarded chestnut trunk covered with clematis. A curious feature was that a "screen" of dead leaves was built in front of the site, hiding the nest; this screen was 7½ inches in width and 3 inches high, constructed mostly of whole dead leaves of copper beech. The birds were much in evidence, but the nest itself had not been started on 19th March, though it was complete by the 26th. This was a typical moss structure, with the usual foundation of dead leaves, and lined with cattle and horse hair (the site being opposite a farmyard gate). The first egg was laid on the 28th, the fifth and last on 1st April. The fledglings were still in the nest on 26th April, but had flown when I visited the site on the 30th.

I have seen no records of Robins rearing two broods in the same nest and I was therefore very surprised on 14th May, when looking at a Blackbird's (Turdus merula) nest in the same tree, to find three eggs in the Robin's nest. This time six eggs were laid and six young eventually left the nest safely.

Dr. David Lack, in his book The Life of the Robin (1943, pp. 83–84), mentions that, in the nest of this species, dead leaves are normally used as a foundation, but not elsewhere. He does, however, quote a rather questionable statement of William Turner's, who, writing in 1544, described how he had observed, when he was very young, that the Robin builds a long porch of leaves before the aperture of its nest. Lack also refers to a few observations of the present century, which between them cover the essentials of Turner's record and include a case of a Robin's nest with a dome and another in which a tunnel to the nest was lined with dead hawthorn leaves (when the nest is placed in a hole or in grass on a bank, there is sometimes the appearance of a tunnel to it in front). But there seems to be no record of a screen of leaves built up in front of the nest, such as I found, nor was there any screen at the same site in 1956.

M. Palmer-Smith

Reproduced by kind permission of British Birds *.

© West Midland Bird Club, 147 World's End Lane, Birmingham, England B32 1JX
Registered charity, number 213311

Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.

Fetched from http://www.westmidlandbirdclub.com/bibliography/british-birds/50-492.htm on Monday 21 April 2014 13:21:29

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