Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nature... The ups and downs or
"Are You My Mother?" Mother Nature's version of the Dr. Seuss book

Mr. Cardinal
(yes, out of focus)
Yesterday I was distracted by a beautiful bright red male Cardinal visiting my bird feeder and the bird bath (about 20' from my home office window). What really caught my eye was not just his color and beauty but the fact that he appeared to be feeding a "baby" bird that did not seem to be a juvenile Cardinal.

Unsure if what I was seeing was correct I went and grabbed my binoculars and checked. Sure enough - it was not a juvenile Cardinal. But what was it... and why was Mr. Cardinal feeding a baby that wasn't "his"?

Mr. Cardinal & Brown Headed Cowbird
Open Wider!!
I kept watching off and on while working and this went on all afternoon - and noted that a SECOND "baby" arrived at the feeder both looking for food (yet both able to eat on their own). I was able to snap a number of pics of the "baby" even catching his shake-my-feathers-and-open-my-mouth "feed me" act on video.

One too many mouths!!
After work, I used the pics and the training my Dad and "Grammie Loug" gave me on how to ID a bird and first checked the bill - def not a Cardinal. My second guess was "could it be feeding a baby Mockingbird?" We have Mockingbirds in the back yard so "maybe"?? But knowing the pissy 'tude of the parents that fly thru the yard I can't imagine that he/she would "allow" another to feed their baby. Checked the bill again - nope not a Mocking bird.

Definitely not a Finch as it was tooo big as a baby. I know it wasn't a Robin - we have a baby in the yard and his/her parents are taking great care of it. We also have at least 3 baby Brown Thrashers - which are similar in size and shape to a Mockingbird... nope.

"Parasite" baby
Brown Headed Cowbird Baby
And then I thought... a parasite bird. I had had a discussion on Facebook with a fellow jewelry designer about a nest near her studio window and possible parasite bird egg in the nest "one of these things is not like the other" type of thing. And I looked up Cow Bird Juvenile. Sure enough - I was looking at the baby that was at the feeder.

The good and the bad of nature.

Mother Nature has for some reason seen to it that some birds will NOT nest. They lay eggs though but they do it in OTHER birds nests. Most
Mr & Mrs Cardinal and
Baby Brown Headed Cowbird
often they lay them in the nests of smaller birds which insures that "their" baby will flourish once hatched. They are generally bigger than the nesting birds babies and can beat them out for food. They have apparently been known to "oops sorry" knock the nesting birds babies out of the nest. That is what a Brown Headed Cowbird does. And yes, we have them in the yard.

Watching what I saw yesterday and then many times again today - made me sad and intrigued that Mr & Mrs Cardinal took care of these "Are You My Mother?" babies. Sad because I worry that the Cardinal's actual babies may not have survived. I am keeping my eyes open though - in the hopes that maybe it/they are still in the nest and simply haven't fledged yet. Mrs Cardinal was present a couple times yesterday but did not spend time feeding the faux "baby" much so my hope is she was attending to her true babies.

Brown Thrasher
Mourning Dove
Mocking Bird
 Also spotted in the yard today - a Brown Thrasher which although looks mature pulled the "feed me" act a couple times but then fed himself (something that the Brown Headed Cowbird babies (aka faux Cardinal babies) did. They are truly big enough and able to feed themselves - I watched them, but they would pull the "feed me" baby act every time the parents were there.); Mocking bird; Mourning Dove(s); House Finch; Mr/Mrs Robin and baby (lordy he was noisy under my office window!! Wish I had realized what I was hearing and gotten a pic!); crows and - of course - squirrels. I didn't see the brown bunny that has visited the yard a few times this spring - but possibly because the grass is so long I just couldn't see him! LOL!!

Preparing to feed the baby...
Going in for the pass...
And fed!

Although nature can sadden you - did the parasite babies (Cowbird babies) push out the true babies? It also really intrigues me that the Cardinal - which really must know that "this is not my baby" continued to feed them when they asked for it.
The Baby was on the bird bath and Mr Cardinal brought the food to it.