THE YELLOW ROBIN AT HOME
It lives in the mountains where moss and the sedges,
Touch with their beauty, the banks and the ledges.
Australia’s Eastern Yellow Robins are as trusting as the English redbreasts, although they are not related. They will hop about your feet if you are digging and perch on your spade (or wood splitter) as soon as you lay it down.
They have the endearing habit of perching sideways on the trunks of trees.
The name of the genus is Eopsaltria, which means ‘dawn harpist’ and reflects the fact that they are the first to begin singing each morning. They’re also known affectionately (and appropriately) as ‘yellow bobs’.
Last year a pair arrived here at The Gums in the first week of June. To encourage them to stay I fed them worms from the compost heap and put some twine into the wood stack as nest lining material. Fortunately we have lots of moss and lichen for them to use. They always have fresh water to splash about in.
This fellow is fresh from a good soak and in need of some grooming:
The birds build a cup shaped nest from grasses and bark, bound together with spiders’ webs. Always plenty of webs available for them on my windows!
Of course, Mother Nature can play some cruel tricks, and the breeding process does not always go to plan. Here is an interesting piece on the robins published in The Sydney Mail, in 1913.
Early in August last, a pair of yellow robins – a bird the size of a sparrow, and half as big as the American robin – built one of their pretty, cup shaped bark nests in a thin sapling. The two handsome eggs – green and brown spotted – had just been laid, when the high winds blew the nest side-long. I tied the frail structure up with a pliable piece of sapling, and the little mother at once came back, and sat serenely till the next breeze, which blew the home to pieces. Undaunted, the robins gathered up their material, and built more wisely in the fork of a sturdy sapling 20 yards away. Here they were fairly safe from the elements, but not from other dangers. Presently there were two pretty pink eggs of the bronze cuckoo to keep the green ones company – two cuckoo’s eggs in the one nest being, by the way, a rarity.
Oh dear, imagine the robins trying to feed those giant twins. The sneaky cuckoo’s eggs have evolved to become almost the same size as those of a robin or a wren. Worse still, it can lay one in about six seconds and then vamoose!
How lucky I feel to have sweet yellow robins in my garden at Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains. They are so bright eyed, round and plump.
Isabel’s poem appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald in 1936. I hope the yellow robin stays with me too.
My thanks to the National Library’s wonderful site TROVE and its digitised newspapers for access to the poem and the 1913 article.
Before I go, here is another article about some of Australia’s more urban birds, not all native….. and some considered out and out vandals! Birds of the city.
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