Q: Robins built a nest right alongside our back door, which is the main entrance to our house. The mother is sitting on the eggs nearly full time and we’re trying not to disturb her by using other entrances. I’m wondering how long I have to wait before putting out my container plants and what time of day might be the best for working on the patio.
A: Kudos to you for being willing to alter your behavior to help these nesting robins. It generally takes about four weeks from the time the last egg was laid to the day all the youngsters leave the nest.
I think you can go ahead and put out your container plants and even be out there weeding and watering. If the robins are very upset by this they’ll make their views known by loud chirping and fluttering around. If they do this, you might want to go back to your avoidance strategy.
Since parent birds feed their youngsters almost continually from dawn to dusk there really isn’t a time that’s less bothersome than another. Let’s hope they find another site for their second brood.
Chewing the fat
Q: I was seeing orioles at my suet feeders this spring. Is that unusual?
A: We think of Baltimore orioles as big fans of grape jelly and oranges in spring, but in our prolonged, cold spring they also needed a source of quick energy, and suet provided that. Many readers reported observing other species at their suet feeders for the first time, including scarlet tanagers and rose-breasted grosbeaks, plus several kinds of warblers.
Q: We’ve had some woodpeckers coming to our feeders that look like downy or hairy woodpeckers, but are sized in between those two birds. Do downies and hairies interbreed and produce medium-sized young? We’ve gotten in the habit of calling them “dairies” or “hownies.”
A: I love your names for possible hybrids of these two species. But I don’t think there are any records of these two species of woodpecker interbreeding. I’d bet that what you’re observing is standard size variation in downy and hairy woodpeckers. Please keep in mind, too, that females of these two species are larger than the males. You may be seeing a large female downy near a small male hairy, for example.
Finding nest camera sites
Q: In a recent column you wrote about sites where you can see birds’ nests on camera. Can you tell me how I can find some of these Web pages?
A: Here are links to a number of nest cams: