February 04, 2023

A cowbird, robin’s nest and sparrow

By Curt Swarm

This story comes from Marcia Wiedemeier in Burlington.

It was a hot Sunday morning. As we were getting ready for church, my husband, Dan, looked out the bathroom window and spied a pink, hairless baby bird spread-eagled on top of the air-conditioning unit.

Oh, dear. There was no sign of a nearby parent.

I put on shoes and walked around the house to rescue the fledgling. On the way I spied an old robin’s nest on top of the yard light that had been vacated by the latest brood. Ah, ha! Using a ladder, I climbed up and placed the baby bird in the empty robin’s nest.

There, our consciences were eased. What more could we do? Oh, I suppose we could have brought the orphan into the house and attempted to feed it bread and milk with tweezers. But, really, we were late for church, and sometimes you just have to let Nature take its course.

The nest was in full view of our kitchen window. So every time I was at the sink, I would see it. A couple of days after placing the baby bird in the nest, what did I see? A little head with a beak wide open, bobbing up and down. Yes, Yes! And then a common sparrow flitted to the nest and poked food in its mouth. Oh, wow! I called Dan at work to tell him about, “Our baby!”

He rushed home for lunch to see it and we were the proud parents. Both of us kept vigil on the progress of our newborn and cheered the adult each time she flew in with food. We gave each other daily updates.

Soon the baby bird sprouted fuzzy feathers, and perched on the edge of the nest flapping its wings. Later in the day we saw the mama and baby hopping around in the grass with the baby making short flights. Soon, junior was making longer flights, catching insects.

While sitting on our porch a few days later, our now finely feathered youngster flew near our patio for a visit, seeming to thank us. “Here I am. You saved my life.”

Oh, what joy!

It appeared to us that the baby was growing larger than the mother, and had different markings. Had the mother taken in a baby from a different kind of bird?

Using our, “Peterson Field Guide to Birds” we identified the now near adult as a Brown Headed Cowbird. “Cowbirds are known to have laid eggs in nests of over 200 species of birds. Some birds reject the cowbird eggs, but most raise them, even to the exclusion of their own young.”

Oh, my.

Weeks later, we still saw the easily recognizable pair in our back yard. So whenever I hear someone say, “Oh, it’s just nuisance sparrows at our feeder,” I remind them that all God’s creatures are here for a reason, and all God’s creatures have the ability to care for each other, even if it is another, what some people consider to be, junk bird.

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com