Friday, June 22, 2007

Show and Tell - For the Birds

Last Friday, while Landon was spreading mulch under one of our trees, he accidentally knocked a birds nest out of a low branch.  Well, not the nest itself, but I suppose he disturbed it and he said two "baby birds" fell out and then one flew away.  (I'm thinking that may have been the mother bird - or it's possible that the babies were old enough to fly, but only one took that option.)  Landon carefully picked up the other bird and put it back in the nest, where there was also an egg.  Then came and told me what had happened.  I went out to check the situation and take pictures (naturally)


I was very curious about the relative size of this baby bird to the parent bird, and to the egg.   One conclusion is that the egg is a dud because compared to the size of the baby bird, you'd think if it was going to hatch, it would have by now.  I wondered if it could have been a cuckoo baby that was in the nest, because I know that cuckoos lay their eggs in songbird nests and then abandon them.  However I wasn't sure that we had cuckoos around here.  But by great luck, an article appeared in our newspaper (a birdwatching column that appears once a week) discussing the brown-headed cowbird.  I had seen cowbirds around before, but what I learned in that article was new to me - Brown-headed cowbirds ( are brood parasites just like cuckoos.  The female cowbird lays her eggs, described as "white, lightly speckled with brown" in the nests of other songbirds.  A couple days later I checked the nest again, and the bird was gone, but take a look at what I saw:

The larger egg definitely fits the description of the cowbird egg!  And what I couldn't see from our first encounter, is that the smaller egg looks like a chick started pipping, but didn't make it.  So... was this poor sparrow busy feeding and defending a cowbird chick?  Or was the chick a nearly fledged sparrow?  The cowbird apparently leaves it orphaned eggs only one at a time, which makes me wonder.


Here is a picture from eNature of a cowbird nestling:

  Doesn't quite look like our baby bird, does it?


I am trying to identify the mother bird, but the pictures I got of her were very indistinct.  So I'm searching a field guide with only a good description of the nestling, egg, and nest, and the mother bird's call.  I'm quite sure it's a sparrow, but as to what type, I have no idea.  I've ruled out a couple species just based on their range, habitat, and nesting habits.  But it could take me till NEXT Friday to come to a conclusion about what kind she is, so I will give up on that and post this Show & Tell, and call it good!


Check out other Show and Tell's by visiting CanadaGirl's blog at:  and let her know if you want to join in!






Prncsstefy said...

cowbird nestlings are so ugly they're cute. LOL

Canadagirl said...

You have the neatest S&T's ! I will look in my DK bird book but I am not sure if I could figure it out any better. I do hope if you figure out what kind of bird it is I would LOVE to iknow. I love bird watching. (0=

God Bless my SSiC

In Him<><


ReviewsbyHeidi said...

My mom had a nest of birds on her front door a few years back~ that's how she discovered cowbirds! Not only do they deposit their eggs in other birds' nests (sorta like surrogate parenting), but they take one of the other birds' eggs out! The nerve!

Anyway, we found the whole thing to be very interesting. I have quite a few cowbirds around here this summer AND I've seen many little eggs lying on the ground~ I'm sure it's the cowbirds fault!


SuzyScribbles said...

I loved this S&T. I always wonder if the old wives tales about handling birdies and birds' nest is true. Obviously, since your family was handling it and the mama came back, the tale must be false. My son accidentally disturbed 2 Robin's nests within a week of each other. I don't think they made it, however, since his disruption was because he was power-whacking the hedge. The nests are pretty exposed now.

Thanks for those wonderful pictures and the cowbird lesson!

BChsMamaof3 said...

Thanks for sharing that. We just finished reading about cuckoos and cowbirds not to long ago so I got my son to come and have a look at your photos : ) Sort of sad for the little eggs that get kicked out of the nest : (



sharity said...

How neat! And great detective work! I loved it when we had barn swallows nesting in our carport. I loved going out to see the baby birdies.



DanielleW said...

Great pictures. We just went and visited a Purple Martin Sanctuary yesterday! It was so exciting and interesting and very interactive. I touched a bald brand new baby martin! Some of them are quite ugly!! I'll be blogging about it soon.

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