This post is about one of my favorite things…BIRDS!
Last Wednesday, Emma and I were harvesting chamomile when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye…a baby bird! Right behind Emma at the far side of the garden was a little baby bird crying for food. He or she was adorable.
Naturally, Emma and I assumed the baby was from the song sparrow family nesting in one of the beds near the shed and we figured he got ambitious and left the nest getting lost in the process. We took pictures of the little guy and let him be while he continued to cry for help.
After sometime one of the parent song sparrows found the baby and we watched as the mother or father bird first fed and then led the baby back to the nest. Emma and I thought this was the cutest thing ever and after the baby bird was safely back home we got back to work and went on with our day.
Now, that may seem like a satisfactory nature story in itself, but just wait! Caution: PLOT TWIST APPROACHING!
The next day we were in the garden with Tod, our supervisor and my previous Ornithology professor, mowing under the fence and mowing back the chamomile. Once again Emma and I saw the baby bird lost again in the same spot. We showed Tod and told him our story from the day before. After a couple of minutes Tod broke the horrifying news.
The baby song sparrow was not in reality a song sparrow but, a baby COWBIRD. I was shocked…
So, why I am dramatizing this whole thing that is seemingly not that interesting? Well, for someone who has studied birds, I was ecstatic to see what I learned last semester playing out in the real natural world.
For some light background, a Cowbird is a bird that lives in North America that acts as a “brood parasite.” A brood parasite is an animal that uses other animals of the same or different species to raise their young. Cowbirds do this by depositing eggs in nests of other species (such as robins or SONG SPARROWS) and relies on that species to raise their young.
Why do Cowbirds do this? Well, think about it…this animal behavior is an evolutionary marvel! While Song Sparrows and Robins are wasting and investing energy in an offspring that isn’t their own, the Cowbirds are using their energy to forage and produce even more offspring raising their fitness. Therefore, the Cowbirds are the species who get the upper hand!
This my friends is why I was so interested in the baby bird being a Cowbird, it was an act of biology at its finest!
I know you may think post didn’t have much to do with sustainability or gardening, but animals definitely do connect to gardening and sustainability in more ways than one. Birds in particular can be pests to gardens or beneficiaries to gardens by either eating crops or eating insects that can act as other pests. Everything in nature is connected and it is important to remember that your garden will be affected by nature in ways that you can and can’t control and its best to not become frustrated with natures ways but instead to appreciate and embrace it!