We didn't notice until too late that a pair of robins had decided to build a nest on the light fixture beside our front door.

The light fixture is just to the left of the top of the door. (Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)  

The moment of discovery involved my opening the front door to pick up the newspaper, and jumping when something flew squawking from just above my head to the tree in front of our house.

A bird. A robin, to be exact. 

I looked up at the light fixture. Uh oh. A nest was hidden behind it, with the edges peeking out.

I told Mama Robin that she was okay, and I went inside, shutting the door.

It was hard to get a good photo of the nest. The windows above and beside the door are where I stood to get almost all of my pictures of the birds. (Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)

There are vertical windows on either side of our front door; so I stood back and watched.

Mama Robin soon flew to the post right in front of me and perched there, on the ready, peering in every direction for several minutes. 

At one point I was sure she was staring right at me, daring me to try to open that door again. 

I finally gave up and went away.

I took this picture after the birds had gone. The nest was on top of the back part of the light, and over the space between the fixture and the brick. it was much shallower than one might expect. (Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)

Mama Robin staring at me. (Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)

Later that afternoon, when our oldest son dropped by, we discovered that Mama Robin was still on the nest and still very annoyed when bothered. 

As our son came up the front steps, she shot out of the nest and flew toward him, just above his head, chattering all the way, to land on the tree and keep chirping like crazy.

He thought it was funny. Well, at least until he noticed the fresh white spots on his car when he was leaving. :) Yes, Papa Robin was also in the tree.

Les thought it was funny, too.

I, on the other hand, related to the mother bird. One of my strengths as a novelist is the ability to get into the mind of my characters and feel what they feel. And I easily put myself into the mind of the mother bird.

I've had four babies of my own, not to mention a number of grand-babies. I know how a mother reacts when danger of any kind threatens her child. So I felt bad for Mama Robin.

I promised her we wouldn't bother her any more than was necessary.

Since we normally park our car at the back of the house, we didn't bother her when we left the house or returned by car.

I also started going out the back door whenever I went for a walk, and encouraged Les to do the same.

If I knew people were coming to visit, I either warned them to go to the back or made sure I opened the door before they came up to our house so Mama Robin wasn't inconvenienced for long.

Getting the newspaper each morning was the biggest problem. I'd start by trying to see if Mama Robin was on the nest. If I stood in the right place, and if she was sitting with her head up, I could sometimes see her.

In this picture, her head is on the right, just above the light.

Or his head.

I realize that male robins may take a turn at sitting on the nest.

But the robin who stared at me frantically from the post seemed to look the same each time to me. Kind of frazzled, to be honest. The other robin looked sleeker, and a bit smaller.

If you look really closely at the picture below, you can see Papa Robin sitting in one of his favourite spots—on a branch of the tree right in front of our house. 

(Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)

(Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)

Over time, I realized that Papa Robin was always somewhere in the area. 

  • In one of the trees out front
  • On the grass on the other side of the street
  • On the grass on the median or our lawn, presumably hunting for worms
  • Perched on the roof of the house on our right, out of my view
  • On our roof, again out of my view 

And, of course, he was sometimes on the nest or on the bannister, guarding the eggs while Mama Robin took a break. 

Our unexpected tenants first came to my notice on Monday, May 5th, 2014.

Our efforts to accommodate them in their efforts to raise their babies went on for over three weeks, with me keeping an eye on the nest from time to time, feeling bad every time I opened the front door, and trying my best to only open the door when I couldn't see an adult on the nest (although I wasn't always successful). 

Mama Robin did get so used to me that although she'd fly off to the tree when she heard the knob of the door turn, she'd fly back to the bannister post the second the door was shut. Then she'd turn in every direction, looking a little crazed, with wild eyes, until she was satisfied the danger had passed and it was safe for her to return to the nest.

Oh, did I mention that she was complaining loudly the entire time? Technically, she was probably trying to distract me so that I didn't notice the nest. However, it sounded like complaining to me.

I think this is Papa Robin. Sleeker and a bit smaller. (Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)

Mama Robin always looked a bit crazed. (Photo copyright N. J. Lindquist.)

Were we inconvenienced by our tenants?

If you count the number of times I checked to see if all was clear before opening the door, or felt bad because I or someone else had disturbed Mama and Papa Robin, causing them to fly crazily to the tree and making her sit on the post staring around for several minutes, then yes, it was somewhat inconvenient.

However, there was actually a bigger problem.

If you look closely at the banister Mama Robin is sitting on above, you'll might wonder where on earth we live. As in, did we live in a shack?

No, our house was fine. But after thirteen years, the wood on our front banister had begun to rot. We'd intended to hire someone to come and dismantle the banister and put in a new one that year.

Of course, we couldn't even consider doing something like that while the Robins were still using their nest. And we hoped to get a glimpse of the babies!

Click here to read part 2

April 7, 2020

About the author 

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. Lindquist is the award-winning author of books, articles, short stories, and blog posts. She also edits and publishes the "Hot Apple Cider" anthologies. A former high school teacher, N. J. co-founded The Word Guild and teaches workshops for writers as well as speaking on various topics including creativity and leadership.

  • I appreciate N.J. sharing her Robin nesting experience. A Robin has built a nest over the past week on top of our front porch light. I feel rather stupid since I was sweeping straw like material off the steps (for several days) and wondering where it kept coming from. It wasn’t until I looked outside the front bay window and saw the nest! Dah! My sister-in-law said, “don’t let it happen! it makes a cement like mess attachment onto the house!” We are letting it happen…Wish us luck????

  • I thank you for your blog I read it because I have a robin outside My Backdoor on the light post building a nest and I wanted to know what I’m in for at first I took it all down and thought okay that’s the end of that but she’s back and building it again I give up I Surrender LOL

  • I love this post, NJ. I definitely identify with it. We’ve had robins in several areas of our home over the past several years. Ours are not as scared as yours. They stare at us but have come to know, over the years, that we pose no threat. We carry on and so do they. We get sad when a nest doesn’t survive or we find dead birds or broken eggs. They become part of the family. They are kind of messy at times, but the joy they bring is worth the clean-up.

    • Thanks Lynne. Glad you liked it.

      Yeah, I’m not good with icky stuff. Been praying no little birds fall to their death on our cement porch. Get worried when I see the mother walking on the road out front. Sigh.


  • NJ, I love this blog, This is so interesting an an amazing coincidence.

    We’ve had this same situation for several years now, in the exact location as yours, only not on the light fixture but on the top of the post on the porch which has a flat surface.One year one of the baby birds fell from the nest and I was so worried because it did not even have it`s feathers yet. I had to have my son wear gloves and place the baby back into it`s nest .Yes we also had to be very careful when opening our front door, and most times left the house through our garage.

    Each year I decided to do something about the spot bird chose my daughter would get upset. She`d say that we humans have used up all of the birds and animals’ habitat and they have no other choices. The big problem is cleaning up all their droppings which is no fun at all.

    I learned a lot from the birds, and wish some of our human families could do the same. One morning early I watched the mother bird leave the nest to get food for her babies, but they were not alone. I noticed another bird close by in the tree on our front lawn watching. I assumed it was the father bird, because as soon as I opened my front door he flew right over to my home and into the nest. The father bird was protecting her babies. I thought, God, how wonderful that even in the birds you’ve placed that instinct of parenthood.

    NJ I look forward to reading the rest of this blog. Blessings !

    • Several years? Oh dear. Not sure I could take that. You all must have tons of patience.

      I was so worried a baby would fall on the step which is concrete. But that didn’t happen. Yeah!

      Yes, do stay tuned for the “rest of the story. There is more to come. :)

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