Pinned Robin

Posted by Bob Lefebvre.

In May 2006, before I was a serious birder (and before I had a digital camera), I saw an American Robin in my yard with an unusual blue spot on its back.


On closer inspection, the blue spot turned out to be the plastic head of a long metal pin that passed right through the bird’s body.

IMG_0003 trimmed

If you look closely at the above photos you can see the pin protruding from the robin’s breast. Here is a better look at the front of the bird.


I called the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, and they said if I could capture it I should bring it in. But I wasn’t able to get close enough to it to capture it. The bird could fly and feed normally, and appeared healthy. I even watched it evade a feral cat once. The robin was in the vicinity of our yard for a week.

It may be a little hard to tell from these photos, but the pin was not just through the feathers but right through the centre of the bird.

I’ve always wondered what this pin was and how it got in the robin. At first I thought it might be a tracking device, but it looks like an ordinary pin. Was it pushed through the bird by someone? Shot at it? Someone speculated that perhaps it was pushed through the egg and the bird grew around it! I haven’t seen a pin quite like it – does anyone recognize this type or have any idea how this could have happened?


Over the course of the week, the pin gradually worked out the back of the bird so the head was about two inches from its back. Then I never saw it again, or if I did, it was pin-less.


6 thoughts on “Pinned Robin

  1. Glad you found out what it was and hope that that brave robin is still going strong! What is wrong with people?? Glad there’s enough of us out there that care….keep up the good fight!

  2. That is a blow dart from a blow gun. Google “blow dart” and you will see examples. Someone must have shot it.

  3. A pin that long and sturdy makes me guess quilting, dressmaker, or hat pin, like the pictures here: or or here: .
    One has to think that does not happen to a bird by accident, and only humans make dresses, quilts, and hats. Looks like act of random cruelty.
    Thanks for including the potentially hopeful note that pin seemed to be working itself out.

  4. The pin is a dart from a blow gun. At least it looks similar to the darts I have. The round blue plastic head is conical in shape and serves as a tail for the dart. For the record, I don’t shoot at robins, or birds for that matter.

    • Blow dart makes more sense than trying to quilt a robin. Actually no, it doesn’t. But good to have the question answered, sad as the answer is.

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