“I have a mother,” said the baby bird.
“I know I do.
I will find her.
I will. I WILL!”
~P. D. Eastman, Are You My Mother?
One day this summer, I was looking out on the garden as I had heard a bit of chattering that told me baby birds were about….or I should say fledglings or newly fledged birds. As I looked, I spied a new arrival on the patio….a common landing area where we see many new fledglings rest and explore until they get their courage up to take another flight.
As I watched this babe (you could tell he was newly fledged as he hardly had a tail and he was sporting baby feathers still, here and there), I thought to myself that I had never seen this type of baby bird before. Certainly too big for a sparrow, and not quite right for a red-winged blackbird.
The babe was definitely curious taking in his surroundings, wandering on the step of the patio and seeking out seeds. He hopped about, but always kept one eye on the sky as he cried a bit to be fed.
As I was still trying to figure out who this was, another bird swooped down. It was a smaller song sparrow. I thought nothing of it until, the sparrow approached the baby bird, and suddenly fed the big baby bird. Immediately the lightbulb in my brain went on, and I knew immediately who our visitor was; a fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird.
Now if you don’t know, cowbirds are one of the few birds who do not build a nest. Instead they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. I always found it fascinating that these birds laid eggs, and left the care and upbringing of the egg and baby to other birds much like a foster care program for birds.
I have read many birds are not amused with this behavior by the cowbirds, and will destroy the eggs if they notice them in the nest. Song sparrow and cowbird eggs are very similar in appearance so it is no wonder they are duped into thinking the egg is theirs. It must be quite tight in the nest though with the baby cowbird, as they are double the size of baby sparrows.
The sparrow fed the baby cowbird there on the patio for a while and then they were off to the trees and others areas in the garden more protected and remote. As they flew off, I marveled at this scene that had played out before me, and how these stories give me pause to reflect about our own human race. Perhaps we could take a page from nature and try to work more in harmony helping each other without question and prejudice. It’s a dream!
Here are some interesting facts about Brown-headed Cowbirds:
- The female cowbird usually chooses an open cup-nest to lay one egg.
- The female will wait until the host bird has at least one egg in its nest, many times removing an egg from the nest before laying her own.
- Female cowbirds will continue to lay one egg at a time for about a month, and can lay up to 40 eggs in host nests. That’s a lot of cowbirds.
- The incubation of cowbird eggs is short taking typically 10 to 12 days, thus allowing the young cowbird to get a head start in the nest.
- Young cowbirds grow quickly, which gives them a competitive edge for food over the other young in the nest.
- Young cowbirds will also leave the nest quickly usually after 8 to 13 days.
- It takes the young cowbirds quite a long time to become fully independent from their host parents, about 25 to 39 days.
- Once they become independent they will form small flocks with other juvenile cowbirds and juvenile birds in general.
- The care for the cowbird from egg to independent juvenile is usually at the expense of the host bird’s other young, as the cowbird is bigger and grows faster thereby giving it food and attention more than the host bird’s young ones.
This summer we have witnessed many fledglings in and around the garden especially baby robins. No robins nested in the garden this year, preferring the undisturbed abandoned house next door. And it appears our crazy robin momma had a couple of small broods as we saw her feeding babies weeks apart.
This babe flew to the arbor and stayed there for quite a while as it took in its surroundings. It was quite content to stay put for more than an hour waiting for its parent to come and feed it.
I spied him, or a sibling, a few weeks later in the garden searching for food and not far from his parents still.
With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday. I am also linking in withMichelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.
And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme. I hope you will join her. Please check out all these great blogs.
Also as the equinox approaches, please join me at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View, for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations. There you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the coming of the new seasons around the world.
I leave you with another thought about the lessons I am learning from nature. Feel free to download the photo and share.
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15. Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.