Before I get to the juicy stuff, remember my photos of the sparrow feeding the cowbird baby? I just came upon a good explanation of the nest poaching behavior of cowbirds by Dave Irons on the BirdFellow blog. I like what he says here:
While it is hard to overlook the negative impacts that cowbirds have on some of their host species, it’s important remember that their actions are instinctual and hard-wired, not malicious or with the intent to harm other bird species. If we don’t like the results, perhaps we best look in the mirror, rather than casting aspersions towards a bird that is simply doing what it has evolved to do.
I think he’s got that exactly right.
In other birding news, I thought I had an exciting new addition to my life list the other day. I was sitting in a gravel parking lot where I often see Killdeer. There were several of them there that day, but there was another similar bird I couldn’t identify. Of course I didn’t have my binocs or my camera, but I wrote down the field marks so I could look it up when I got home. It seemed a bit smaller than the Killdeer, and only had one black neck ring instead of two. It appeared to have a solid face mask of black too, and I clearly saw a rump patch of a beige or brownish color. When I looked in my Nat Geo Field Guide, I immediately saw two types of plovers that had a single neck ring, but their ranges are nowhere near Michigan. After briefly considering that I’d found a far-out-of-range Plover, I noticed this in the Killdeer description: “Downy young have only one breast band.” So that’s probably what it was after all. I was a bit let down until I realized that only last year I was thrilled to see my very first Killdeer. I got jaded quickly, didn’t I?
But I DID get a valid new addition to my list this past weekend: Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis). We were on a hike in a local metropark and saw two of them wandering around there. What a nice surprise! (We actually were thinking more about snakes than birds that day — believe it or not there was a 5-foot boa constrictor loose in the park. I’m glad we didn’t come across THAT – sheesh.)