Another rescue, very different

The wildlife rescues just keep coming. Strange how I'm out in the garden about 5 minutes every day lately but there's time enough to find animals in distress. This rescue did not involve downspouts or disassembly or even a creature in apparent distress. In fact it was only chance that I happened upon it.

The house finches have finally built a nest on my porch again. They've done it for years now, raising two broods per annum but since the nest area remained clear until just a week ago, I thought they had given up on me in 2016.


The nest looked a bit weak and the female is extremely skittish, flying away even when I approach the window, so I wanted to get a look at what was going on up there above my head. Was she even sitting on eggs?

So I stood on the porch chair and snapped a blind photo with my phone. (First photo in this post)

Hmm. One of these things is not like the others. Cowbird egg!

After doing some reading about cowbird eggs and chicks, I decided that this egg most likely meant the death of the five house finch chicks. The cowbird chick wouldn't kill them outright, but since it hatches earlier and is much larger it would dominate for its adopted parents' attention, and the other chicks would not likely survive.

This reminded me that I saw Northern Cardinal parents feeding cowbird chicks in past years with no cardinal siblings...

Cardinal male feeding cowbird chicks, 2014

...which lead weight to this theory that the other chicks probably would not survive.

So I made a difficult decision...

...and removed the cowbird egg from the nest.

I felt quite guilty about condemning this unhatched chick to death, but to save the other five it was worth it. Besides, Nature itself is quite cruel as I've seen for myself time and time again, so I didn't feel too down about it.

I was concerned for a while that the the mom might not return to the nest, but she was back up there later. Whew.

I did not expect to be making this type of rescue!


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Mark and Gaz  – (May 25, 2016 at 6:33 AM)  

Glad you spotted the deception, good move!

Kathy G  – (May 25, 2016 at 8:49 AM)  

Someone told me that cowbirds wouldn't survive in a finch nest because they need protein (and finches feed their hatchlings nothing but plants).

outlawgardener  – (May 25, 2016 at 9:21 AM)  

I wonder why cowbirds have developed this strategy? I would have made the same decision in favor of the house finches but would have felt the same guilt.

danger garden  – (May 25, 2016 at 10:48 AM)  

I was going to commend you on making the right choice, but now I'm curious what Maywyn has to say...

Alan  – (May 25, 2016 at 10:53 AM)  

Maywyn, please post here. I did not receive an email and everybody could probably benefit from your comment.

Anna K  – (May 25, 2016 at 11:13 AM)  

I was also going to say "good for you", but now I too, am curious! In Sweden, the cowbird equivalent is the cuckoo, who does the exact same thing. Birds are so interesting, and I know so very little about them.

Anonymous –   – (May 25, 2016 at 11:24 AM)  

It looks from what I read, its illegal to remove cowbird eggs under the Migratory Bird Treaty.

Anonymous –   – (May 25, 2016 at 12:51 PM)  

Check here for the reason not to remove the egg:

Alan  – (May 25, 2016 at 2:35 PM)  

Interesting! I still feel good about saving 5 birds...

susie @ persimmon moon cottage  – (May 25, 2016 at 5:31 PM)  

I am glad that you helped the house finches the way you did. They are such sweet little birds. It is a joy to see the mama and papa house finches choosing their nesting place, hopping and twittering all the while. The papa finch sings so beautifully, too.

chavliness  – (May 27, 2016 at 12:25 PM)  

Interesting information about cowbird's nesting habits. And although we shouldn't get involved in nature, I would have done exactly the same as you. Lets hope that cowbird isn't going to be vindictive.

Pat  – (May 28, 2016 at 5:19 AM)  

Enjoying your Blog. Still looking...have a great day.

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