If I could talk to the animals


Yesterday I noticed a pile of debris on one corner of my front porch. A sizable little pile it was too. Strange. Then I realized it was the result of a bird’s nest-making attempts. Every spring birds try to nest on my porch, either on the narrow little ledges near the top of the columns or on top of the porch light fixture. None have ever succeeded. The spaces are just too narrow. It’s always the little house finches we have around here. Sweet little birds, but just not little enough. The pile must have represented days of construction attempts by a very industrious little bird.

And sure enough, there were bits of grass and a little mud up on the ledge above.

I kicked the grass off the side of the porch and forgot about it.

Today I heard birds twittering out on the porch and looked to see if the finches were still at it. I was amazed to see another pile of grass (top photo), every bit as big as the one I’d disposed of yesterday. All that in one day!

But that wasn’t as surprising as the bird on the ledge. Not a little finch but a big fat, very determined robin. I should have guessed, since robins use mud in their nest construction, but there obviously wasn’t enough room up there for a robin. I thought. It looks like this robin is determined to stay.

I wish I could talk to the animals. I wish I could explain to her that she’s picked a miserably small, uncomfortable place for her nest-that-isn’t. If she lays her eggs up there, they will surely get knocked down. If not, and if they hatch, the hatchlings will surely fall to their deaths. I don’t know whether to intervene before she lays any eggs (assuming she hasn’t already) or just leave her alone. “Look, chica, we need to have a little talk about your choice of nesting sites … ”

You know, I seem to recall that one spring I actually found a fragment of robin’s eggshell in the bird debris on the porch (can’t mistake that blue shell) and wondered how the heck it got there. Do you suppose she had an almost-nest out there once before and I didn’t recognize it as such?


I don’t care what this robin thinks, that’s not a nest.


15 thoughts on “If I could talk to the animals

  1. What surprises me is why they chose a place so close to where you, and anyone who visits you, could so easily tamper with the nests. The “little birdies” must have spread the word about you PT! 🙂

    1. Robins tolerate people better than most birds. You can get surprisingly close to them sometimes. And there’s very little traffic on my porch. Only occasional visitors or deliveries, and I come and go through the garage.

        1. Hmm, that would solve several immediate problems. Long term, though, I’d rather discourage avian activities on the porch. I love having them in the yard, but not on the porch or deck.

          1. No, for this season, a pot full of greenery or something similar would catch the grass and anything else that might fall from the ledge.

  2. I have similar problems when nest building season rolls around. I have a metal patio cover with a gutter on it covering my patio. English sparrows insist every year on trying to build nest in the gutter and I am continually removing nesting material. They don’t seem to understand that when it rains they are going to have major issues, even losing their young if they build there when water starts rushing down the gutter.

    The other place I have problems is my mail box. It’s next to the carport door and I don’t usually keep the top closed because it is in a covered area. But the wrens love it as a nesting box. Seems every year at some point I will reach my hand into the box and come out with a handful of nesting material. So then I will close the top and keep it closed for a few weeks. Since I check mail every day basically the wrens only lose about a day’s worth of labor when they find out the landlord has evicted them. 🙂

  3. I’ve had a similar experience. There is stucco trim on our house and some years ago, barn swallows began building their mud nests up in the corners of the back porch, near the ceiling. Their ideal nest, I learned, has its opening just a few inches below a ceiling. The stucco apparently was an ideal surface for their mud nests. I love to watch barn swallows do their thing in the air – they are amazingly acrobatic and swift, but the mess beneath the nests was just awful. So I got a handyman to install a 4″ metal bevel all around the inner angle of the porch ceiling and had the whole thing repainted. Then, this winter, I made two nesting boxes and installed them over an area of the porch in back where the droppings would land in grass. Huh. I guess I ticked them off – no tenants so far. Some bird started a nest but abandoned the job before it was finished. Nature is a tricky thing.

    1. Aren’t swallows amazing in the air? And with all the insects they eat, I too would be looking for ways to keep them around (but not on my porch). I haven’t seen the robin again since I took the pictures. Maybe she finally decided she didn’t want to spend weeks scrunched in that corner with her whole back end up in the air.

  4. They work so hard! You try and try to explain, but…. We have a ledge over the front door. It backs up to a narrow horizontal window over the doorway…but it’s sloped! One young bird couple tried it 2 years ago – the eggs will roll off. I guess they like it because it’s sheltered and heat comes through the window in cold weather. Finally they gave up. Now if only the dirt dabbers would.
    (a plant under that spot might work,,,if they manage to actually get a nest done)

    1. I’ve left the second pile of grass until/unless I devise something else. But I haven’t seen her since the day I took the picture. I think she gave up. Just as well, I think. Hope there’s still time for her to do her thing someplace else.

... and that's my two cents