Weekend Birding: Cowbird Fledglings
Once again I have fledgling Cowbirds at my tray feeder waiting for their adoptive parent to feed them. The cowbird is on the right. The Mourning Doves on the left were ignoring him and his sibling, who was out of camera range.
Are you my parents?
It wasn’t long before a pair of Northern Cardinals showed up. As soon as the cowbird started begging, the male began to feed him. Why? Because cowbirds are brood parasites. They do not build their own nests or raise their young. The female will sneak into another species nest, drop in an egg or two, and let the other birds do all the work.
Are you my daddy?
Cowbirds are not fussy when they choose adoptive parents. Their eggs have been documented in the nests of over 200 species and about 145 of them have successfully raised a cowbird chick.
In my yard, the cardinals seem to be particularly susceptible to cowbird parasitism. This is the third year in a row I have seen cardinals caring for fledgling cowbirds. If this seems a familiar topic, I wrote more about cowbird behavior last year.
Unfortunately I have not seen any young cardinals this season. With two cowbirds to feed and care for, it’s doubtful any cardinal eggs from this nest were successful. Cowbirds hatch sooner, grow faster, are larger, hungrier and out-compete the host’s nestlings for food.
There’s my daddy!
The adult cowbirds visit my feeders but don’t claim their young until all the hard work is done. That’s the male cowbird in the photo above.
What I find amazing is that these young cowbirds do not imprint on their host. Somehow they know they are cowbirds and will develop their own song, social and breeding behavior. I have observed the male cowbirds rounding up groups of youngsters into the flock after nesting season has ended.
Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos.
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