Empty Nest Syndrome

I came to a realization today that there is a great similarity in the behaviours of robins and people as each raise their offspring. While the robin hatchlings were in the nest, the parents nurtured and cared for them, only getting into a flap when the children were in imminent danger.

When young children are living at home, their human parents nurture and care for them, only getting into a flap when the children are in imminent danger.

This morning the robins were in their nest; this afternoon they’ve left their relatively safe home and have gone out into the world. The parents have been frantic many times today, as they watch for dangers, real and perceived. It must have taken weeks off their lives as they cope with higher blood pressure, stress, and exhaustion, but they remain vigilant every moment of the day and night.

When teenagers leave home to go live on their own, their parents try to bury their frantic anxiety, and soon find themselves popping blood pressure pills and not being able to sleep at night in spite of being exhausted with worry about what their children might be doing now without their parents to guide them and keep them out of trouble. On top of that, the parents are lonely and at a loss for how to fill that space that is now empty in their nest.



It’s a relief for me to have the robins out of the nest in the rhododendron because these last few days it has been a bit chilly in the evenings and I so much wanted to turn on the heat pump for a little burst of heat. But as you can see, the heat pump is right by the rhodo and I didn’t want to frighten the birds  by turning on the noisy contraption, so I suffered rather than scare the birds.



I was shocked to see the empty nest this morning. I spun around looking for baby robins lying on the ground, half pecked to death by crows, or flapping weakly, trying to get back into the nest, but no babies were to be seen.

And yet, the parents were terribly upset to have me there looking at the empty nest. I thought maybe the babies had crawled under the Alberta spruce that is now almost covered by the rhodo. Who would have thought that the
“rescue rhodo” would have thrived like this, overshadowing other plants around it?

But then I noticed the large patch of broom at the side of the yard, and what a good hiding place that is for small animals in general and baby robins in particular. So if you think that broom is a nuisance plant and are bent on eradicating it, as some misguided local groups are, please think twice before you get rid of it all. Why not leave some of it, at least, for the benefit of young birds that need a place  to hide until they grow stronger? Natural edge effect is very important for the safety of many animals.



The proud father sits in the dogwood tree nearby, guarding the secret hiding places of his children. He needs a break from the near heart attack he had just a half hour ago when the sharp-shinned hawk who is raising his family 500 meters away, came looking for some tender morsel of a little bird hopping around naively on the grass –  a snack to feed his own brood. What a ruckus the opposing parents made. The high-pitched deeeeee-di-di-di-di of the hawk and the freaked out PIP, PIP, PIP of the robins had me running to the deck to help by waving my hands madly. “There are plenty of mice for the hawk to eat. Leave my babies alone!” But who knows what tomorrow will bring? ??????????


31 thoughts on “Empty Nest Syndrome

    • So far, so good. They’re still in a lot of danger, but it’s good that they’ve made it this far. Many that I saw flying by in crow beaks didn’t make it very far at all. The parallel struck me today when I realized how much more concerned the parents were now that the kids had left home.


      • I felt the poignancy in your analogy bc I have a 17 year old who, though she summers with her German relatives and travels through Europe alone, she’s not ready to approach her future. Academics have not been her thing, but she has keen insights on people and is very artistic and since that isn’t as valued as someone who can fill in our famous bubble tests in the US, she needs some time to get her wings strengthened again so she knows what it’s like to feel flight–before she leaves the nest for good.


        • This is where it’s important for her to know the nest still has open doors. You pray for their safety and leave the door open. That’s all you can do. Those transitional years are hard for both the child and the parents. But what exciting years she has waiting for her!!


        • Oh for sure! I learned that when I was young, having gone in and out those open doors several times before finally feeling confident enough to fly on my own. Unconditional love and open doors are things I really appreciated about my parents back then and still thank them for today even though they’re long gone.


    • I know! I have to stop going to the window to check on the babies (always hoping I don’t see them or they’d be in danger out in the open). I have to accept that nature will run its course and I can only help so much.


  1. I brought two baby birds to a rehab shelter last summer after a big wind burst. Nature is brutal.
    Never worry about robins. They over winter here in Colorado and it gets COLD! It’s snowing today and they are out singing away!


        • Broom has been introduced here, and now there is a group determined to eradicate it (an impossible goal) because it is invasive. But it will only grow where there is light. It’s not shade tolerant so it won’t crowd out fir forests. Unfortunately these zealots are cutting the beautiful broom when it’s in flower (to stop it from going to seed) and instead of lovely yellow flowering shrubs at the side of the road, we now have piles of brown dry sticks that are not only an eyesore but a fire hazard.
          Yes, it’s invasive, but it’s not going to take over everywhere.


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