An Injured Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Robins keeping cool at the bird bath under the shade of the old Elm tree.

Yesterday morning welcomed us with the first 70° temperatures we have experienced all summer.  Until today, the morning lows had been in the upper 80° ranges and into the low 90’s.  FD and I enjoyed the beauty of this cool morning by walking around the yard, filling bird baths, starting sprinklers, and checking out the heat-exhausted trees.  Most trees and shrubs were dropping leaves and showing signs of stress.  My flower beds looked as if they had been torched.  I had just recently given up the battle and let the tomato garden perish.  It had produced well early on, and for that I was thankful.  The other garden still has some yellow squash, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and ground cherries for Daisy deer. Our sweet potato vines crawl across it endlessly.  Watering this garden every other day is all that keeps anything in it alive.

Young siblings weathering the heat together.

As we headed toward the canyon to check the water tub and feeders down below the slope, FD spotted a juvenile robin that had a droopy wing and was performing a hopping run, fleeing from us.  I knew it before he even said anything; the bird was injured and FD would have to investigate.  My first thought was to leave it alone.  It was still mobile.  But FD insisted on catching it and examining the injured wing.  He feared the many feral cats in the area would easily nab it in its injured condition.   I secretly hoped he would not be able to catch the bird.  I did not wish to bother with a bird, adding its care to my already busy summer chores.  We had rehabilitated birds before.  It’s one thing to raise a nestling, but a far more difficult feat to deal with an already wild bird.  I walked on to the canyon hoping FD would fail in his attempt to capture the fledgling… but soon, I heard a squeak.  Drat!  He had caught it and I knew what that meant! Ugh.

Our new friend looking forlorn with his drooping, left wing.

Over the past few weeks, we had been observing quite a few fledgling robins in the yard.  These youngsters soon advanced to the juvenile stage,  traveling on their own and fending for themselves, keeping vigil at the bird baths, drinking water and finding cool shade under the old Elm trees. The past week had presented temperatures in the 109° to 113° range.  Every bird and critter was keeping close to the water vessels, filled several times a day with fresh well water.

The juvenile robins hanging near the bird bath were a sweet sight to see.  Their speckled breasts, big dark eyes, and the bright and happy sounding trill made me forget the extreme heat for a moment.  It is this cheerfulness and pluck that make the robin one of my all-time favorite birds.

The egg yolk and blueberries were a hit, but the mushy dog food went untouched. I can’t say I blame our friend a bit!

But now, my mind snapped back to one particular juvenile robin. That would be the one screaming like a banshee as FD carried him over to me.  Giving in to what I knew had to come next, I retrieved the medium-sized bird cage from the storage building and set it up in the house.  FD got busy examining the injured wing and decided everything felt fine and nothing was broken or torn.  We hoped a few days rest, maybe a week, would have our little friend mended and back with his buddies under the elm trees.

As I stepped back to drape a sheet over three sides of the cage to help keep our new friend calm, I felt something wet under my bare foot.  Bird poop!  Great!  FD hadn’t thought about bird droppings when he brought our little charge in the house.  This was exactly why I was not fond of rehabilitating birds.  What a mess they can be! I cleaned off my foot and sanitized the floor, then finished off the cage preparation by putting papers all around the perimeter.

Precisely targeting the subject requires tremendous focus and finesse!

With our little friend now settled in to his temporary apartment, I quickly got online and researched proper food for robins.  I believe most everyone associates robins with eating worms.  I discovered, however, they can also be fed egg yolks, dog food soaked in water, and berries of all sorts.  Learning this, I hard-boiled a couple of eggs, soaked some of the Chindrin’s small-bites dog food, and chopped up a few blueberries.  Our little friend liked the egg yolks and blueberries, but I couldn’t blame him for turning up his beak at the mushy dog food.  I must say, it did look quite gross!

The article I read also mentioned offering other invertebrates, including grasshoppers, as food.  Goodness knows we have plenty of those around the place lately.  So off to the yard FD and I went with our kiddie-sized butterfly nets, hoping to scare up more food for our friend.  Our efforts quickly produced about a dozen grasshoppers of assorted sizes, which our little guest loved having for his dinner!

I daresay I won’t find too many opportunities to photograph FD with a butterfly net!! Priceless!

This morning, I vowed to try to dig up some worms, though I was not too sure how successful I would be since the drought had likely driven the worms deep into the soil and made them scarce by now.  I went to the garden, and after digging to the point my back was begging me to stop and my body was sweating profusely, I had only managed to uncover seven small grubs.  I was pretty sure the robin would enjoy them, but they were not going to provide near enough food to get him through the day.

I brought the grubs in the house, put four of the writhing, white bodies on a paper plate and set them in the cage.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, they were completely gobbled up within about two minutes!  Obviously sporting a voracious appetite, my friend had eaten them much faster than I thought he would!  “Yikes!”, I thought, now I needed to find more.

So back to the garden I went, shovel in hand and a new determination at heart.  Unfortunately, I found only one more grub and zero worms.  As I walked  back to the house feeling rather dejected, I noticed my father-in-law feeding the chickens and stopped to tell him of my plight in seeking good eats for my injured friend.  He simply suggested, “Well, you might check that little country store just outside of town.  I think they have live bait there and you might find some worms”.  I was flabbergasted and, feeling a bit sheepish, wondered why I hadn’t thought of that.

On a new mission now, I finished moving a couple of sprinklers and headed in the house just in time to hear the phone ringing.  My father-in-law had already called the store and sure enough, they had worms.  I thanked him, grabbed my purse, and took the short drive out west of town to fetch some earthworms for my hungry little friend.

Zoe tries her talent at catching grasshoppers, but usually they end up mutilated and she’s unwilling to give up her prize! Ultimately, she’s not much help!

The plump delicacies I found at the country store were just what I needed and, at the cost of $2.97, I sure couldn’t complain.  Arriving home, I promptly dropped the first big, fat, squirming specimen in the cage and peeked around the corner of the sheet to observe.  I saw my friend staring back at me.  As with all of the other food I had placed in his cage, I could never manage to catch him eating it.  He seemed to be very private about eating his meals, so I waited a couple of minutes and peeked again.  This time, the worm was gone!

Soon after, our little fellow was singing and chirping a melody so happy that it softened my attitude about having to go to such an extent to find food for him.  All of the time I had spent faunching, in my typical glass-half-empty-way, about what a chore caring for this bird was going to be, seemed so silly now, knowing that this happy trilling and chirping was to be my new morning delight!

Thanks to the country store/bait shop I nabbed these beauties for just $2.97. No more fruitless digging in the garden!

I cannot tell you the number of times I have felt a certain dread at the onset of caring for some kind of wildlife.  It is difficult work.  It is tiring work.  It eats up much of my day. Wildlife requires special handling.  Sometimes it means getting pecked or bitten.  Most of the time it is messy and requires a lot of sanitation and cleanup.  Many times it is noisy work.  And often, it is expensive.  The rehabilitator pays for any veterinarian calls, facilities to house the species, supplies and food.  When we are presented with a new, little charge that needs a mother or a nurse, I typically go straight to the negative thought of how much work it will be and the commitment and responsibility it will entail.  And yet I know I will never say “no” to caring for and helping wildlife that needs me.  Somewhere, in the compassionate and loving part of my soul, I know that it can never be any other way for me, that I will always help, nurture, care for, and love wildlife, because it gives back so much more to me than I ever provide for it.

As I end this post about my new little robin friend, I hear him singing, “Yeep, yeep, yeep, cuck, cuck, cuck…  CheeeeeEEEEeeep, cuck, cuck, cuck!!”  In robin talk, I think that translates to “Thank you VERY much for the worms, lady”!  What a delightful and cheerful new sound!  One that has provided the most glorious music to my ears, all day long!  Oh my, am I beginning to see my glass now half-FULL?  Which way is your glass today?

FD shot this lone juvenile taking a rest at the picnic table on a 111° day last week.

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

24 thoughts on “An Injured Juvenile Robin

  1. You my lady wear many hats and I can see the one you are wearing now is bird whisperer. I always look forward to what you guys are raising or rehabilitating next and I’m never disappointed. I can barely take care of the animals that are supposed to be in the house (I use the term ‘I’ loosely because my wife would strongly suggest it should be more ‘her’) much less take in every stray that enters the yard. We do have a wild kitten that is staying in my shop that is fed with our cat Hobo. It hasn’t let us touch them yet but it has no problem eating the food. 🙂 Here’s hoping the robin recovers quickly. Take care and stay cool.


    1. Beware of the pointy, black hat I wear on days I go flying on my broom! I think we all do what we can for our pets and nature that happens to come our way. I know you are a tender heart when it comes to old Paco, just by the way you describe his presence on a hike. I also know if you happened on an injured bird or animal or found an orphan while hiking or mountain biking, you would either take it in, or you would locate a rehabilitator. That’s all it takes is a caring heart. You, my friend, have that special quality (and I bet your wife and daughters do too!).

      I thought we would get rain for a little while today, but it skirted us completely. Darn!


  2. I’m reminded of my days volunteering at a local wildlife rehabilitation center, and how much I loved feeding the raccoons and squirrels and birds of many sorts. Sadly, the place went under not long after I joined up.

    I’m also compelled to say how fabulous the two of you are for doing what you do for the creatures, the Robin included!


    1. Thank you Sid! It’s wonderful to get a pat on the back; it means a great deal actually! I am thankful we have never had more on our plate than we could deal with. It’s also nice that I do not have to commit to anything the game warden brings me or asks me about. Most everything we have taken in to rehabilitate has been some critter that wandered on the place, or we discovered after a storm. We have never been overwhelmed with too many orphans or injured.

      I just subscribed to your blog… I love your writing style!


  3. This reminds me of a touching experience I once had. I was on my way home and there were a bunch of sparrows all over the street. I looked in my rear view mirror, and I could see one quirming around..I had hit it. I backed up, got out, and picked it up. It was hurt. I hed it all of the way home and I felt so was almost dead. When I pulled up at home I got out of the car and held it in my hand with tears in my eyes…it was a very young sparrow..I felt so terrible. I said aloud, “Father, in the name of Jesus, your word says You know when even a sparrow falls. Please allow this tiny sparrow to live!” I raised my hand up towards the heaven, and the sparrow that was nearly dead and groping for it’s every breath in my hand suddenly stood up and flew away…it went high up over the rooftop as if nothing had ever happened.


    1. That is an amazing story! I’m like you, I feel terrible and horrified when an animal or bird suffers by my own hand! How wonderful your experience had a beautiful ending. One of my Grandma’s loved the sparrows. I think because they are a plain-looking bird, and are often overlooked, they tend to seem unimportant to the world. They are one of the hardiest little birds I know… and they have a place and purpose in this world, as we all do.


  4. I saw the title of this post and was interested very interested in reading it, since our rehabbed robin, Sweetness, flew the coop. I really enjoyed it, especially the part where FD caught the robin. That made me laugh. I understand your feelings, it seems with my busy schedule with the deer often I get more to do, but it always works out for the best and in the end I am thankful. Thank you for posting this experience I enjoyed it.


    1. I thought of you when I was writing this! I hope Sweetness is doing well with a group of robins and enjoying life in the wild! I laughed at the photos of FD with the butterfly net! I cannot look at the post without cracking up! There is so much I need to write about the deer in the canyon lately. It’s so exciting! I will probably never get the photos of deer that you get, and truly, your life is surreal in many ways. I could only hope to achieve what you do. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I love you, dear DEER friend!


    1. Lynda, you just make my day! You point out what I often overlook or pass off. I guess it is the “teacher” in you! I don’t think you’ve fully retired!! I love being under your tutelage! Thank you for helping me see what I have to offer others.


    1. Thank you Katherine! I feel another cup half full day again today!! It started out poorly, but I’m determined to keep at it. Our little robin is not eating as he should… I discovered yesterday’s worms hidden under newspaper in the birdcage. Alas, we will work on his diet. The wing hasn’t improved much.


  5. The birds that you call Robins are not related to the European Robin in any way, but they are still just as beautiful! I’m so pleased that this little guy is going to have a happy ending; none of my bird rescues have ever worked out.


    1. This robin is an American Robin. We have always had good luck raising orphaned nestlings, but fledglings are difficult as they are already wild. It’s a challenge to find a diet that is agreeable for them, and also tough to keep them calm in a cage while they heal. Much of the healing process is dependent on their pluck and willingness to live. I have heard other rehabilitators say that some birds just give up, and refuse to eat. They give up on life… which I have had happen with squirrels before. It is very difficult to raise already wild creatures. At least you have tried… sometimes that is all we can do!


      1. I remember carrying an adult male Blackbird with a broken wing and leg half a mile to my home because I couldn’t leave him there, and D found an injured Collared Dove in the garden last year. We couldn’t save either of them, but at least we could give them a quiet, safe place to die. That was some consolation, at least, and they’re both buried in my garden borders.

        I look forward to hearing more about the progress of this little guy 🙂


        1. I felt the same about the two sister squirrels I could not save. They died in a peaceful surrounding knowing love and caring. I’ll be sure to update everyone on the little robin. He’s tweedling away this morning with song and chirping. It’s really quite soothing and happy!


  6. Yes, littlesundog, it is cooler in the mornings here in NW Alabama, as well! Your adoption and nursing of that injured juvenile robin reminds me of your care of Daisy! Such a comfort to know you guys are out there, sharing God’s wonderful world with such great stewardship!


  7. Granbee, you always have me feelin’ the love! It is a wonderful thing to feel kinship with so many people from all over the world who care about nature and all life forms. All of these little creatures deserve to know the best of humanity. We are capable of so many actions to help when we can! I’m just doing my part, my wonderful friend! Your wonderful story-telling and poetry about woodland critters is another way to connect people with nature. We all have a gift you know!


  8. Hi, Lori (now that I know your name.) This truly is a remarkable post. I hope your drought ends soon. It’s been a dreadful summer for all of us. I wish I could have sent you all the rain and thunderstorms we had ever since June. It’s beginning to dry out a bit now…it’s just plain hot and muggy. It’s amazing to me that you and FD are doing such marvelous things under such conditions.


    1. Oh, thank you so much!! Everything I write is from the heart. Today we have finally whittled down the favorites on the robin’s dinner plate. Chopped up earthworms (each chop I say, “I’m sorry… so sorry, sorry”), chopped up blueberries, crumbled egg yolks, and all sorts of grasshoppers with the jumping legs removed. It’s been very difficult for me to handle the worms and the grasshoppers. I never was one to kill bugs! The past two days we have seen clouds come and go. Thunder and lightning tease us, but no rain. Ah, but just the overcast skies present a reprieve of sorts… something to be thankful for! Thank you so much for your kind words… they mean so much.


  9. I love the way you dig in even when you’re grumbling. Underneath that, some part of you remembers the pay-off and will push through the resistance to get to it.


  10. I love the way you analyze situations! You have me pegged, spot on! The pay-off is knowing I did what my inner spirit would have me act on and know I felt good about helping another, tapping into my compassionate nature. That is really who I am. But I’ll be darned if my horns don’t show every once in a while and I grumble about what I know I must do!!


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