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Birding/Caring for an American Robin hatchling


A robin made a nest on our fence and was incubating the eggs when they suddenly abandoned the nest and didn't come back. Our neighbours looked inside the nest and saw that it was overrun with mites. They were able to "rescue" one that was hatching. A few hours after that they handed the hatchling over to us for some reason and asked us to care for it. We accepted it knowing that without its mother it was probably going to die in a short while and the best we could do is feed it and make it comfortable, to a better extent than the neighbours could. They had fed it live worms and for the rest of the first day we did as well, but after seeing that it didn't digest the worms very well and after doing some more research on the Internet we switched its diet to canned cat food and that's all it's been eating since, however we plan to start reintroducing bits of worm back into its food very soon. It hatched on July 18, and so far it seems like it's developing properly; growing more down (prefeathers?), ears and eyelids are becoming more prominent. I'm concerned however, that its not feeding as often as I'm reading it should be. Instead of eating every 30 minutes or less, it opens its mouth to eat every hour to an hour and a half. Are we feeding it too much in every sitting? Does this have a negative effect? Yesterday this hatchling ate very poorly, only feeding about 8-9 times in 17 hours, although it started eating more in the later part of the day. Does this have anything to do with its temperature? I think I've rectified the warmth problem by putting a hot water bottle underneath it's "nest" which currently consists of a rolled up sock with lots of cotton padding for warmth and support but I'm still not sure. What kind of diet should I be feeding this chick that most likely resembles what its mother would give it? The wildlife rehabilitation centres in my area are absolutely not accepting songbirds under any circumstances, so I'm pretty much the only chance this thing has got and I want to fulfill its dietary and other needs to the best of my ability. I will also be paying a visit to my local vet to see if anything can be worked out in the mean time. The food recipes you answered a similar question with are intended as emergency measures only and grains don't seem like they're part of the robins natural diet so I just wanted to seek out more detailed information.

Thank you very much for reading.

Sounds like you have been doing a pretty good job so far. A high protein diet is needed - so cat food, mashed hard-boiled egg, and worms would be fine. Add some vitamin D as well as they need it for proper bone growth. A visit to the vet is also a good idea. Feed it whenever it gets hungry - they eat less often as they get bigger. Thanks for your concern.


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Roger Lederer


Any and all about WILD birds - the science of ornithology. Information about birdwatching, ecology, conservation, migration, behavior, banding, rehabilitation, feeding, songs, binoculars, identification, and careers in ornithology. No questions about pet or caged birds, please.


Have a PhD and over forty years as a professional ornithologist - research, teaching, author, speaker, webmaster of . Have written thirty scientific papers, three bird field guides, a textbook in ecology four other bird books, the latest being "Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs". Have traveled to 100 countries watching birds and have spoken to hundreds of groups about birds.

PhD in Zoology/Ornithology; Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences; former Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at California State University, Chico

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