Stone Cold Killer

In her day Ruby, our Akita who passed a couple months ago, snagged herself a few birds and a couple rats. We never actually saw her do it, but did find the carcasses.

Apparently Misaki would like to follow in her footsteps.

Let's rewind a bit. Right after we had to say goodbye to Ruby a robin started building a nest right outside the sliding glass door of our bedroom. There is a light mounted to the side of the house there and this female robin apparently felt that was the perfect place to build her nest and raise her babies.

At the time it seemed fine with us. Of course, right about the time the eggs were laid we got Misaki. The bird, surprisingly, didn't seem to mind - though she was wary - and Misaki seemed to ignore the nest. The operative word there is "seemed."

But before we get to that, first some points about the American robin. When the nest building first began we decided to do a little research because I didn't want to be woken up at 4am to the sound of screaming, hungry robin babies. We learned some fun facts.

The Nest, with Rockin'

First off, we learned about the materials used to build a nest. Supposedly they don't include things like plastic and metal, but our robin thought those would be great. When she wasn't around we removed those building materials if we could - she didn't seem to notice or care.

At this point we decided to name her. For some reason that old song about Rockin' Robin came into my head, so the female became Rockin'. The male, presumably the father, was also hanging around too, so he also got a name. Red - what else?


Another thing we learned was the eggs are supposed to incubate for about two weeks before hatching. During this time, supposedly, the mother sits in the nest to keep them safe and warm. Not Rockin'.

Nope, she spent over half the incubation period off doing who knows what. We speculated this was her first family and she was out getting drunk and hitting the clubs. Red would sometimes stop by and appear annoyed she wasn't doing her motherly duties. Perhaps he is an older man? Rockin' is a trophy wife?

Despite her lack of attention to her eggs, all of them were born - four little baby robins. Thankfully, they were relatively quiet except for the couple minutes one of the parents would show up with food.

Rockin' feeding the kids

And that's another thing - we read one parent would be with the nest at all times when the babies were small, again for protection. Not Rockin' and Red. Long stretches would go by where there was no adult around at all. Who knows what mom and dad were off doing.

The babies, all alone

It was kind of entertaining when one of them would come back. Rockin' was mildly wary, but chose to bring in the food to the nest rather quickly, regardless of our or the dog's presence. Red would take longer to come to the nest than he would finding food. He'd sit and stare at the nest, laying a net of surveillance, from multiple points in the yard before even approaching it. Sometimes invisible things would spook him and he'd disappear, choosing to run rather than feed his kids.

Daddy, Feed Us!

Eventually, after a couple weeks, the babies suddenly disappeared from the nest. We figured their time had come and we'd never see them again. Later that day we took Misaki outside for some business and guess what we found sitting on the ground in front of the kennel?

Kind of cute, actually

Thankfully for this little guy we saw him before Misaki, so we ushered her back into the house and waited for him to leave, after of course taking pictures.

A couple hours later we noticed he was gone, so took Misaki outside again. She had apparently seen something we did not. The juvenile robin was now sitting on the ground near the fence, just hanging out like it was the most normal thing in the world. Misaki took off towards him and despite the yells of all the robins in the trees around him, he never moved.

Sorry little guy, but we can only intervene so much in natural selection. This one was just not smart enough to learn from his earlier mistake.

Misaki executed a perfect Shiba pounce. She came up on the bird and dropped both front paws on top of him, immobilizing him. At this point the bird wasn't going anywhere, but apparently Shibas do not kill things normally. She stepped back and looked at me, proud of herself for catching me something. Apparently Shibas were supposed to flush small game for hunters - not kill it.

Is this the face of a killer?

At this point the robin is still alive - though not for long - and Misaki is blissfully annoying the adult robins flying around her head. It was surprising to me how it was not just Rockin' and Red, but about 10 other adults as well. They talked a big game, but none of them were getting anywhere near the killer dog.

So what am I supposed to do with a mortally wounded robin? I don't think I have the stones to actually kill it myself, but I didn't want to watch it die either. So I did what any self-respecting dog owner would do - encouraged Misaki to finish the job. She did, reluctantly, but it took multiple cute pounces to get it done. Then she obeyed when I told her to leave it, and I bagged and trashed the dead bird.

We figured this would be the end of the story of robins in our yard. After a couple kills from Ruby we didn't have any birds in our yard for a long time, so we felt this would be the same story. No dice.

Despite the fact we read robins don't use the same nest twice, about two weeks later there was Rockin', working on refining the existing next and laying more eggs. Apparently she didn't feel the fact the yard housed the killer of one of her children to be a detriment to raising more kids.

The second batch

The full pattern repeated with four more baby birds. Once again they all disappeared. This time, however, one of them hung out by the bedroom sliding door, directly under the nest. The kitties did not like this at all, especially Moochie. He talked a big game to the little guy.

Moochie closer to the camera, Sera behind him. Little guy on the opposite side of the glass.

Once again we found one outside, this time up in a tree. He hung out there for a bit, once again posing for the camera.

Hanging out, mugging for the camera

We thought Red and Rockin' would have taught their new babies about the robin killer in this yard, likely pointing out Misaki multiple times as they grew up - she was around all the time, so it's not like there wouldn't be a chance. Once again they failed as parents.

Misaki knew exactly where the robin was (on the branch, straight up from her ear).

I don't know if this was the same robin we took pictures of in the tree, but Misaki was looking for a nice bathroom spot and a juvenile robin literally flew down and landed near her on the ground. By the time I had any idea what was going on, he was dead. Once again the adults went crazy and flew around Misaki's head while she ignored them, proud of her kill.

Two days later I took the nest down, figuring I'd save Rockin' and Red from their poor parenting when it came to nest location choices. That seemed to work out...for a week. Then one day Wifey noticed a new nest being built. We haven't determined if it's the same robins yet, but even if it's not it means Rockin' and Red didn't help out their buddies either. Or maybe they hate the new pair. Or maybe they never learn and it's them again. Whatever the answer, we're hoping they learn a lesson.

Here's another interesting fact about robin life, from All About Birds:

An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.

About the 40 percent...Rockin' defied those odds and produced four live babies twice in a row. Good for her. Of course, of those eight two fell to the wrath of Shiba in the form of Misaki pounces. That means for her babies to hit the odds, Mother Nature has to allow two of the final six to live, 33%, instead of the normal 25%, for her juveniles to follow the percentages. And, according to the odds, only one of those will make it to next spring. And then there is only a 50% chance that one robin sees a second spring. Yikes - talk about your infant mortality rates.

As far as I can tell, no additional research has been done on what if the babies were born at the home of a Shiba.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahaha!! Love the "face of a killer" photo. Awesome ... um, "Nature Study". I think you robins have issues bigger than a killer Shiba too. Not smart birds at all!