Juvenile Robin With 12 Missing Feathers Update 15th August

The juvenile Robins around the college grounds are now independent of the adult males and have finally started to make brief appearances. There are three sets of which I am aware. There are two siblings currently sharing a small shrubbery. They occasionally bicker over food and join forces when the adult female Blackbird shows up to steal their mealies. It seems rather odd to see them together. I imagine this situation might change once they get their adult plumage and start to get territorial. However, the fact that they are sharing a territory is not the most interesting fact. They are about two months old and yet one of them has no tail growth at all. All very intriguing. If this continues to be the case, I hope this particular Robin beats the odds and survives its first year. It will be interesting to see if adult tail feathers come though during the annual moult.

First, the one with the full tail

Full set of feathers

Oops! Where's your tail?

Showing off my tail!

You don't need a tail to pose for photos

Unicum arbustum haud alit duos erithacos

(One bush does not shelter two Robins)

Zenodotus (3rd Century B.C.)

 

  • Poor little sausage, do hope he goes on OK!

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • Could a cat have done this? I suppose it is possible, but all 12 feathers? None left at all? Not even a single damaged one?

    Unicum arbustum haud alit duos erithacos

    (One bush does not shelter two Robins)

    Zenodotus (3rd Century B.C.)

     

  • At least he's in the right spot to do well, if he's in your area.
    I've seen opportunistic Magpies try for naive young birds and end up with nothing more than a beak full of feathers, so it's not just cats that might have been responsible. Like you say, every tail feather might be unusual ... or the result of multiple attacks.

    __________

    Nige   Flickr

  • Aw poor little fellow, will his feathers grow back Paul.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Over the past few years I have been in contact with Hein van Grouw, the Curator of Birds at the Natural History Museum. He has included some of my photos in his published papers on Melanism in House Sparrows. I sent him some of the photos of the Robin and this was his reply:

    Interesting case. Looking at the photo I don’t think that this bird has ‘lost’ its tail feathers as a result of an accident. As even all the under tail coverts seem to be absent I wonder whether this little bird even does have a tail bone. In chickens a mutation exists which causes the genetically absence of the tail bones, resulting in having no tail at all. Whether this Robin has a similar mutation, or that the absence is non-inheritable I do not know but I recon the tail bone is absent and therefore the bird will never grow any tail feathers. Attached a paper, for your information, mentioning this mutation in chickens.

    As he says, interesting case. The Robin without a tail was nowhere to be seen this morning, although his sibling was. I will keep an eye out for him.

    Unicum arbustum haud alit duos erithacos

    (One bush does not shelter two Robins)

    Zenodotus (3rd Century B.C.)

     

  • In reply to monkeycheese:

    Very curious & interesting MC, do you think he'll survive without tail feathers, can he fly?

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • He can fly. I imagine he can survive if there is sufficient food available. Other than when they (females) migrate, Robins don't have any need to fly great distances. Of course this might be a female. If it's a male, then courtship and territorial disputes could be compromised. Most juvenile Robins do not survive the first year, so I suspect this one has an even lower chance. I hope he (or she) has moved to a nearby territory. There were no signs of ill health yesterday and no real problems with the sibling (who was there). We shall see...

    Unicum arbustum haud alit duos erithacos

    (One bush does not shelter two Robins)

    Zenodotus (3rd Century B.C.)

     

  • Hope you get to see him again MC, check he's OK!

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • Last Friday I managed to get a short clip of the tailless Robin and its sibling having a territorial dispute. The lack of tail didn't hamper his abilities.

    I should add that just before I filmed this, the pair of them were claw to claw in mid-air. I have seen adult Robins chasing one another in disputes, but this was the most violent confrontation I have seen. Interesting that this instinct is there and acted upon, even before they get their adult plumage.