Kathleen Clary Miller

Kathleen Clary Miller has written 300+ columns and stories for periodicals both local and national, and has authored three books (www.amazon.com/author/millerkathleenclary). She lives in the woods of the Ninemile Valley, thirty miles west of Missoula.


I’ve been watching the same red-breasted robin for three years as he frenetically builds enough abodes to have us believe an entire flock of male robins must have made them.  When we discovered it was only one doing it, we were amazed. 

I’ve nicknamed him our “OCD Robin” because my husband and I can’t help but observe his rather obsessive-compulsive dedication as he hustles and bustles, bumping into windows while completing construction…after construction…after construction.

As opposed to careful plan, there is sheer determination.  Zooming back and forth at lightning speed, in mid-flight he hastily tosses twigs, weeds, and even dog hair into what resembles several growing piles of debris that are suddenly then transformed into cozy dwellings.  As soon as one is secure, he is onto the next, all day long.

We noticed evidence of his condominium-style approach the first spring we lived here: a straight line of units the length of a wooden beam above our breezeway that leads to the shop, ten or twelve wall-to-wall nests.  It took awhile to realize they all belonged to just one bird.

I pointed out the plethora—and what I thought the product of a psychologically disturbed avian— to our friend who has a PhD in zoology.  “I think we have a bird with OCD,” I chuckled as spring was coming to a close and our robin was busier than ever.  So many nests; so little time.

“He’s trying to attract a mate,” Charlie informed me.

Poor guy.  Apparently instead of OCD, we were dealing with a unabashed wallflower capitalizing on the odds:  Build enough of them, and she will come!  Proof of industry was certainly visible in his labors of love but, sadly, no takers.  Women are picky.

Last spring, he spread his wings and tried a few new spots, and his tempting nests looked tidier.  After repeating floor plans atop the past year’s failures, this time around, he added even more:  one had a breathtaking view of the forest from our back patio; another a sylvan arboreal ambiance on a tree branch.  You know what they say:  location, location, location…and in his case, location, location, location, location.  

Lo and behold, early one morning I heard the shrill peeps that signal fledglings.  Even though I never saw her, some fortunate female had obviously responded if not to his charms, at least to one of his more charming villas--even if now that the kids were here, she was making herself scarce. 

Predictably, this year as spring warms the air, he’s back at it, banging into my office window on hasty approach to the sill above it, sticks and stalks flying about and falling down.  Like the little engine that could, failure does not discourage; he tries, tries again.  Within minutes of groundbreaking on this one, he’s off to the front porch where within the hour he completes two more nestled in the angles of the truss.  When I walk to the garage, there he is, hopping down the breezeway at breakneck speed.  He pauses only for the split second it takes to lift his eyes to former building sites now razed by winter storms.  He freezes until I pass but once I am in the garage, I hear from those rafters the rustling that can only mean rebuilding. 

“He doesn’t have OCD,” I decide and tell Brad.  “He suffers from sexual addiction!” 

“He’s a hard little worker; that’s for sure,” Brad sympathizes.  “He’s working like crazy to get a girl.”   Or is it girls, as in plural, I wonder.

With this year’s addition of several even more enticing vistas (the floor plan outside my office abuts a blossoming tree that after sunset smells intoxicatingly of honey) he’s bound to bewitch a harem.

The early bird may snag himself the worm, but the bird that never sleeps gets the women.