Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Cowbird and The Chipping Sparrow


Walking past the patio door, I heard the most intense baby bird begging sound. I looked out and there was a rather large gray chick, with a huge red gape, being fed by a Chipping Sparrow.

Wait just a minute, those birds don't match. Is that chick a Cowbird.


And indeed, it is. The chick follows Dad Chipping sparrow into the flower bed. It stands on a rock surrounded by foliage that obscures its view. Dad does an evasion and heads for the bottom of the Spruce tree.

Cowbird chick waits. Dad goes over under the Spruce and begins feeding several of what look like through the branches, chicks of his own species.


Dad makes several runs back and forth to forage and goes back to the Spruce. Cowbird chick begins to doze.

Attentive to all his chicks, Dad then returns with a snack for Cowbird chick who begs intensely.

Dad is off again but Cowbird Chick remains on the look out to start his intense begging movement and vocalization the second Dad comes into view again.

There's another mouthful for Cowbird Chick.

Cowbird Chick continues heavy begging. Chipping Sparrow Dad checks out the activity level at the bottom of the Spruce tree where the other chicks are gathered. Then heads out for another foraging flight a few feet north of the flower bed.

C.C. catches sight of where he is going this time and alertly watches Dad forage through the leaves.

Keeping his eye on Dad, C.C. then begins to walk towards the foraging area. Then he begins to scramble faster. If he makes it to the foraging area before Dad takes off, perhaps he'll get a double helping as he had under the bird feeder by following the adult.

Then he is gone. Dad is on the fly and C.C. follows.
I now realize why one Chipping Sparrow in particular begins to forage before dawn and is still foraging after sunset. He is not only raising a full or nearly full brood of his own progeny but is managing to keep the Cowbird Chick fed as well. He is working overtime but it is working. So far he's managing to feed everyone.
Donegal Browne










1 comment:

Karen Anne said...

It was in Dayton that a Dad managed to raise baby peregrines (on webcam) by himself after Mom went missing this year. As far as I know, they all fledged successfully. Let's hear it for Dads.

Thinking how worn out Isolde was at one point with both parents raising the young hawks, I am amazed this was successful.