Friday, July 25, 2008

Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowbirds

The other day I found this fledgling cowbird sitting in a dead tree at the edge of a wetland. He was quite cooperative and I didn't really think much more about him as I was trying to get photos of a Black Tern that was foraging around the edges of the cattails.

But then I noticed that this youngster was still being fed by it's host parent, a male Common Yellowthroat.

He was busy keeping Baby Huey fed.

This mouth-full had a couple of insects destined for the apparently insatiable youngster.

In goes one.

And out it comes again. Apparently the cowbird was so intent on getting the second insect in the yellowthroat's mouth that it forgot to swallow the first insect (click on the photo to get a bigger version and you can just see the insect emerging from the cowbird's mouth).

Click on this picture and you can see the first insect crawling out of the cowbird's mouth.
The yellowthroat later grabbed the insect back and fed it again along with the second one in it's mouth.

The yellowthroat came back once more with a damselfly before the young cowbird switched to another perch across a narrow channel in the wetland.


Rebecca K. O'Connor said...

OMG -- That has GOT to be the best blog title EVER! LOL

Max said...

Great photos, it's hard work raising a cowbird baby.

John Carlson said...

Thanks Rebecca - It came to me last night, but to be truthful I am not sure if I had heard it or read it somewhere before and it was stuck somewhere in the back of my mind.
Thanks too Max. It has to be hard work when you are putting that much more mass on a nestling than for a conspecific nestling.

Beverly said...

Stunning photos!

I wish I could find information regarding how it is cowbirds learn they ARE cowbirds...when raised by something else.

About that title; I've never seen it; maybe it just sounds so much like the song, huh? Very clever!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Great observation and a super sequence of photos. It still freaks me out to see parents that are so easily duped, and makes you wonder when/how that egg-discrimination gene comes about in nest parasitized birds.

lbmc said...

Ha! Great series of shots. We watched a baby cowbird being fed by a Yellow Warbler this evening...a few shots after the feeding, the Warbler seemed to be staring and in wonder at the size of its if to say, "How did this happen?" ;-)