Nuances of the Nest

When Michigan’s state bird creates a home, she considers material, texture, and location — just like us \\ Photograph by Jean Lannen
TIFFANY GEMS Experts aren’t sure how robins’ eggs get their color. The Tiffany- blue hue is a favorite among bird-lovers.

Come April you may start seeing robins’ nests around your property, says Gretchen Giles, owner of J.J. Cardinal’s Wild Bird and Nature Store in Grand Blanc. The avid garden coach and bird-lover sells nesting platforms at her shop, if you’d like to provide a special little home for your red-breasted friends, but she says they’re also happy just finding cozy spots amid roof gutters, security lights, or trees.

“They won’t live in a bird house,” Giles says. “They have to be on a flat, shelf kind of surface.”

Robins’ nests are cup-style, the birding expert shares. “The female, who lays up to three clutches a year with several eggs at a time, makes the nest from the inside out, and when she’s done, she lines it with mud and then fine grass to make it soft.”

Adds Holly Vaughn, of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division: “The American Robin’s appearance after a long winter is often the primary harbinger of spring to people in Michigan. Their cheerful presence and delightful, jolly appearance earned them the title of Michigan’s state bird.”

As for the eggs’ coloring — that gorgeous Tiffany blue — Vaughn says scientists aren’t completely sure why they’re that hue, but it may have something to do with “UV protection in hot summer weather,” she explains. “Because their eggs are laid in a cup nest, they’re pretty well-concealed from predators; certainly much better concealed than (the eggs of) birds that nest on the ground. The eggs (of those birds) are usually brown and speckled, to blend in with the dirt and leaf litter,” she says.

This spring, if you find a young robin without feathers out of the nest, try to return the bird to the nest if you can do so safely, Vaughn says. “If you can’t return it safely, contact a wildlife rehabilitator to care for the young bird. If you see a young robin out of the nest that has lots of feathers, it will be fine without human intervention, so just leave it be — but keep your pets away.”