A Recluse, Unwitting Foster Parents, The Chase

These photographs capture some behavioral aspects of the birds around me.

There are two Cuckoo species in my part of the world. Both are uncommon and very reclusive. They tend to stay deep inside dense undergrowth, eating caterpillars. I heard one calling close to the trail I was on so I stopped and waited quietly in hopes of spotting it. A Black-billed Cuckoo appeared and disappeared as it moved along parallel to the trail and I got a very good look at it. The photos were worth the 10 minutes of standing still while being swarmed by deer flies and mosquitoes. (No bites since I was covered in repellant!) It was close enough to see the red around the eye.

Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites. The females lay lots of eggs, but don’t build a nest. They lay them in the nests of other birds and leave them for some “foster parents” to raise. A few birds recognize the intruder eggs and destroy them or abandon the nest. But most just raise the hatchlings. Since the Cowbird chicks usually hatch first and are often bigger than the host bird, they can push the host bird’s eggs or hatchlings out of the nest. The whole situation is a bit gruesome in any case. I have had a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds visit my feeders on occasion over the last few years. This year I spotted the unfortunate foster parents. This is a female Cardinal feeding a Cowbird fledgling that follows her to the feeders and begs for food.

Ospreys rarely eat anything other than fish. I watched a Red-winged Blackbird harassing an Osprey and following it for at least 300 yards. Apparently the Blackbird was not taking any chances and wanted the Osprey out of its territory. I feel bad for the Osprey though. He was just out for a little fishing trip and look what happened!

More photographs of summer residents coming soon.

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