Cow-bes or Phoeb-birds? Brood Parasite under the deck.

Phoebe nest

Earlier this Spring at one of my work locations I noticed Eastern Phoebes hanging around. Sure enough when we looked around for a nest it was tucked up under the deck. I used my camera to see inside and when we looked at the pictures saw something I had not seen before, though recognized right away.

One of the eggs is quite different, bigger, speckled and even a slightly different shape.

cow bird egg

Another bird I had noticed in the area was a singing Cowbird. Brown-Headed Cowbirds have an amazing song with more than one note produced at a time. Though a short song compared to many other birds theirs is quite complex. Look it up if you have a chance, or better yet find a Brown-Headed Cowbird near you and listen in person.

Another amazing thing about cowbirds is how they raise their young. They don’t. They leave it up to other birds by laying their eggs in other birds nests for them to raise. This is a great strategy for a species that once followed buffalo herds.

Often the cowbird baby out competes the host bird’s babies and they perish. So the question before me and my little comrades of the day was what to do about this invading egg. The cowbird baby’s presence might lead to the demise of our beloved Phoebe’s young.

What would you do?

Cowbird egg

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