The cowbird con - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The cowbird con

It is the time of year when birds are in a nesting frame of mind! That is most birds are. But one kind of bird, is just not interested in living up to it's responsibilities! Naturalist Larry Clarfeld from the North Branch Nature Center tells us about one of the biggest cons in the natural world!

"We're looking at a Red Eyed Vireo, which are forest dwelling birds and they have this ringing song, "here I am, in a tree, look at me, way up here! We always want to be careful not to disturb a nest, but when I discovered this, a hiker walking by had just caused this bird to flush off the nest, so I just took a real quick look, and she has more eggs than just her own in there! This nest has been parasitized by the brown headed cowbird!"

What does that mean? It means that the brown headed cowbirds don't build their own nests, they put all of their energy into finding another birds nest and laying their eggs in there and having those other birds raise their young! You'd think the bird that built the nest would recognize those big old eggs in there weren't her own.

"Yes, remarkably not. And her instincts to raise her young are so strong, they are such devoted parents that when those cowbirds hatch out, even though they'll hatch a couple of days earlier than their own kids, even though they'll grow faster and become much larger, those babies will quickly become larger than the foster parent herself, yet she raises them as her own."

Now that's a sweet bird. But it is often to the detriment of her own young. The big cowbirds will sometimes kick the other eggs out of the nest or just out compete with the smaller chicks.

" But that really vigorous parent, if she really tries and if she's lucky, not only the cowbirds make it, but hopefully some of hers will make it as well. "

"That's just the way cowbirds do things, nature doesn't always paint a pretty picture, but the cowbirds have to raise their young too, and this is the only way that they know how to do it.

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