We went away for five days and came home to find a robin building a nest in the crook of the downspout of our gutter. I live in Massachusetts, in Northeast United States, so she's probably an American Robin, although they don't vary greatly from the European varieties. I've never seen a nest this close, and am thrilled! Although it's too high to see inside, it's still really exciting watching the robin come and go.

I don't know if this is her first nest ever, but it certainly is in that spot. Right now it looks like a lot of dried straw-like material hanging down, with a small solid section at the top. From pictures I've seen online, the top part should be more round and deep, so I don't think it is finished.

I know there are many factors involved in making a "successful" nest, and she won't lay eggs unless they're met. I've read here, here, and here that mud is an essential component, and is used as a middle layer to hold the nest together. The sources instruct that if there's no wet dirt available nearby, a container of mud should be left near the nest. Is there anything else I can provide to assist her in the building process?

Please excuse the lack of clarity in these pictures. I took them quickly while she was away, and I wanted to get them posted. Click on them for a larger view.

From underneath From the left

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    Not quite answering the question but, I'm sure you will but just let nature take it's course around the next itself. Don't disturb it in anyway. Next year though (over the winter) you may want to consider putting up some nest boxes in the same area. You could maybe attract more or encourage this particular individual to return. – user2766 May 19 '16 at 9:36
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    "probably an American Robin, although they don't vary greatly from the European varieties". Not on topic, but the American robin, Turdus migratorius, is not a robin at all, but a species of thrush, and no more closely related to the true robin of Europe (Erithacus rubecula) than it is to any other Old World songbird. The cousin of the red-breasted robin that you are most likely to see in Europe is the blackbird, Turdus merula. – Malvolio Jun 19 '16 at 20:34

We have one spot under our back deck where Robin's make a nest every year, last year we had a nest with five eggs:

enter image description here

Every year, we did absolutely nothing to help them out, and they always did just fine. I did think that I could have helped a bit by giving them a couple worms when I poked my head in to take a look. Every time they'd hear something near by the nest, they'd pop they're heads up with their mouths open, which appeared to take a lot of exertion when they were small. I tried finding caterpillars and soft bugs for them to eat a couple of times, but while I was looking, Mom would always show up with a mouth full of grubs and sit on the fence waiting for me to leave so she could fly in and feed her chicks, so I just let them be after that.

enter image description here

With the exception that not all of the eggs hatched last year, the chicks grew fast and promptly flew the coup. Don't expect your birds to be around for long, they'll likely only be there a couple weeks after they hatch, then they'll be big enough to fly. Believe it or not, the picture of them above was taken on June 18th, and the picture below was taken on June 25th, that's how much they grew in only a week.

enter image description here

One thing that you can do to help your birds out, is after the babies fly away, or at the end of the season, is take down the nest. Birds don't typically reuse nests because old ones can be full of pests and parasites. Knock that old nest down once they're done with it, and they'll be able to build a nice clean new one in the same spot next year.

In your situation, I'd also try to avoid my downspout, knocking that thing around could disturb the birds.

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    Loving the photos – user2766 May 20 '16 at 8:15
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    Excellent answer and pix! In addition, most of the sources I've read list mud as an essential part of the process. It's used as a middle layer. If you see a robin with mud on her belly, she's almost always building a nest. If it hasn't been rainy, or there's no local source of wet dirt, the advice is to keep a container of mud handy until the nest is done, which I did. Yes, she'll generally find enough materials on her own, but putting out a pile of twigs, yarn, strings, and hair can help. Part of the fun is seeing those things end up in the nest! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 20 '16 at 18:16

The robin should be quite capable of building the nest on her own. Almost anywhere there should be enough dried grass and small twigs around. It is unlikely your robin is having trouble finding building material. The best thing you can do for the robin family is to give them space.

For your own enjoyment and perhaps that of others, you might install a small web cam a couple of feet from the nest. That way you can watch what develops without bothering the birds further after installing the camera.

  • My work has nest boxes in the area of our office. Every year they install a web cam in one before the birds return. We then get updates and photos though year! – user2766 May 20 '16 at 8:17

I live in the UK and the first time I noticed Robin's nesting was in the top of a down pipe. Unfortunately the heavens opened and we had flash floods. The water filled up and the 6 babies died despite taking them to a rescue centre. I put up 2 Robin nest boxes directly underneath and around. Within 3 days they nested again. Each year I'm really lucky to have the Robin's come back. They nest at least 3 times a year. They have just had one brood fledge and I was lucky enough to watch all 4 leave successfully. (As a rule they don't hang around long though, however last year adult and babies fed from.my hand on the ground.)The nest box was emptied 2 days after flight day and 2 and a half weeks later, they have another nest built. I'm so lucky to have them. They are right by my kitchen window, just above head height and with their proximity to us, become very familiar. I'm intrigued to understand how or why it happens every year, as the life span isn't long and they've been coming now for 4 years.

  • Welcome! Thanks for sharing this! I'm so sorry for the losses. How kind you were to take your birds to a rescue center. Your love is so genuine! I'm jealous you were able to get them to feed out of your hand! Another user of ours is looking for some ways to build nest boxes that will be successful. Would you be willing to look at the question, outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/22073...? You may be able to help! Thanks, and please stay with us! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 15 '19 at 1:47

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