Why have all robin chicks suddenly been removed from nest at 3 days

Hi all

PLEASE HELP, as I want to explain to my young children what may have happened, as they are going to be devastated. 

We have a pair of robins nesting in our garden in a nest box with a livestream camera.

At the weekend, starting saturday morning, 5 out of 6 eggs hatched. For a couple of days we have watched the female and male successfully feeding them.

Yesterday, Monday, we were able to observe all (we think) chicks moving. Some inevitably looked stronger than others, regularly raising heads with gaping mouths. At least 3 looked strong, a couple weak. 

This morning I came down early and turned on the camera. I briefly saw the nest with the unhatched egg and a chick. This was a brief view, but I think this chick may not have been alive, as it didn't seem to be moving.

What I assumed to be the mother returned, grabbed the remaining chick and flew off, leaving just the egg. I was gutted, as this has been lovely to watch with the kids each day up until now. 

The mother shortly returned, poked around, as she would when the chicks were still there and sat on the egg, as if still nesting. She has since returned a few times with food in her beak and is still coming back and sitting. 

What could possibly have happened?

We have a live feed camera and have been careful not to disturb the box. We have not seen any predators (cats etc) around and seems unlikely nest has been disturbed, as the robins (I think I just saw male as well) are still returning. 

It was cold last night, with a frost, but not extreme. We have been having cold nights and frosts over recent days in Kent. I find it hard to believe all chicks died from cold, when the female has been sitting. 

What has likely happened, as I want to be honest with the kids, although it will be hard. 

Thanks

  • Hi Marc, It does seem likely that the chicks have died overnight and the parent bird has removed them, and continues to try to incubate the remaining egg. I've not heard of this behaviour before though, but of course that doesn't mean it can't or doesn't happen.
  • In reply to Mr. B:

    Hi Mr B

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    That is what I assumed and told the kids this morning, who took it alright. We had prepped them that life can be tough and that's why robins usually have 2-3 (maybe even 4) broods each year.

    I think I prob took it worse, having watched the mother return with food for the non-existent chicks.
  • The same sort of thing happened to me & my robins. One day they just abandoned their nest despite the female spending days incubating inside (however, I don't think the eggs had hatched). I checked the nest after they left and there was nothing in it. Predation is always a factor (ground-level nest so squirrels, rats etc.) but thankfully both adults are unscathed and likely scouting for a new nest site.