How the Incorporation of Plastic Debris in Robin (Turdus migratorius) Nests Differs by Location in Northwest Indiana

Faculty Sponsor

Laurie Eberhardt, Ph.D.


Arts and Sciences



ORCID Identifier(s)

0000-0002-9428-2111, 0000-0002-8362-1675

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-28-2022


Plastic pollution has been increasing around the world with a variety of impacts affecting both terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Birds around the globe have been shown to be affected by plastic pollution, especially when they use said plastic as nesting material. Some detrimental effects include nestling and adult entanglement and ingestion. Change in the thermal properties of their nest structure has also been observed. This study is a continuation of previous research conducted in Spring 2021 which indicated that plastic was being used as nesting material by several species of birds in this region. This year, we examined if the proportion of plastic in robin (Turdus migratorius) nests differed between three locations: box store parking lots, campus, and local parks. Post-breeding season robin nests (n=44) were collected between October 2021 and February 2022. The nests were then washed and filtered to remove as much mud as possible. The remaining nest material was dissected, separating human-made material from natural nest material. Common types of plastic found include bags, netting, string, and zip ties. The total weight of plastic, paper, metal and natural material was recorded. Overall, 89% of the nests contained plastic. Nests were composed of as much as 25% plastic by weight of the non-mud material. Results indicated that robins use significantly more plastic in box store settings compared to campus and park environments (ANOVA stat test). Future research is required to understand the comprehensive impacts plastic has on robin nest quality and breeding success.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Elissa Torgerson is in her second year at Valparaiso University and is from Streamwood, Illinois. She is completing a research-intensive biology major with a chemistry minor and is a member of Christ College. She enjoys studying ecology, theology, and German. Outside of school, her favorite activities include international travel, volunteering at her local cat shelter and watching British television.

Cole Philips is in his senior year at Valparaiso University and is from Valparaiso, Indiana. He is completing a research-intensive biology major with a minor in Chemistry. He also served as the president of Phi Delta Theta during the 2021-2022 academic year.

This document is currently not available here.