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What to Do if a Robin Abandons Her Nest

| Updated September 26, 2017

The American Robin, Turdus migratorius, is a songbird more closely related to the thrush than a European robin. It gets its name from its orange plumage on its chest, similar to the red coloring of European robins. They are found across all of North America, but tend to breed further north in Canada and the Northern and Central States of America. If you find an abandoned robin nest, there are a number of options available to you.


A robin’s nest is commonly between 1 and 5 meters off the ground in dense brush or in trees with thick foliage. It is made of grass twigs and other material. The outside is smeared with mud and grass and leaves may be used to line the inside.


It is not unusual to find old robin nests that are not abandoned, but vacated. For each batch of eggs, the female robin will build a new nest. The majority of birds build strong sheltered nests so they can last long after the eggs have hatched. If a nest is found with no eggs or chicks in it, leave it alone. Other reasons why a nest is abandoned with eggs or hatchlings is that the eggs may be unfertilized, a predator has been seen in the area, or the robin cannot find the nest since the tree lines have been disturbed.


A nest which contains eggs is more problematic. If the nest is in a tree, it is unlikely a that it has been abandoned. If a nest has fallen from a tree, the mother may not be able to find it and the eggs may not have survived the fall. If a nest has eggs in it, and has possibly been abandoned, observe the nest for several hours to ensure no robin returns. After this, carefully remove the nest and take it to a bird sanctuary or veterinarian for care. If a nest with eggs has fallen from a tree, take it straight to a bird sanctuary or veterinarian to find out if the eggs have survived. Keep the nest warm during transportation by wrapping it in a towel, blanket or jacket.


If a nest is found in a tree with hatchlings, a similar observation period should be used to ensure it is actually abandoned. If a nest with hatchlings is found on the ground, it is unlikely the mother robin will be able to find the nest again. It is possible to hand raise robin hatchlings using a bird chick milk formula and a pipette. Chicks require regular feeding in the early days and those raised this way have a small chance of survival in the wild. As with the eggs, it is best to take hatchlings to a bird sanctuary or veterinarian for proper care. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to hand raise an abandoned bird without supervision from an expert.

Human Contact

If there is a possibility a nest has not been abandoned, do not touch it. Damage to the area caused by humans will make a robin abandon the nest, even if there are fertilized eggs or hatchlings in it, or attract predators.