A lot of people really dislike - even hate - cowbirds. I get it. It can be hard to watch a small warbler trying to keep a huge cowbird chick fed, and it’s sad when host species eggs get destroyed. But objectively and unemotionally, cowbirds are amazing, smart, resilient, and cool. Their reproductive strategy allows them to produce many more offspring than the average bird. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll be thinking about cowbird behavior in a new light too.
Keeping the nest clean is a pretty big deal. Some large raptors are able to defend their nest from nearly anything, so it doesn’t matter how messy they are. Not so for our grassland birds. They are ill-equipped to fight back against most predators, and fare much better when they’re able to go unnoticed. Dirty nests could smell strongly, and attract curious - and hungry! - mammalian predators.
It's been a little bit since we've peeked Into the Nest of grassland birds. But not because of a lack of interesting stuff to talk about! We are working on a run down of everyone's favorite topic: poop; you won't want to miss the upcoming post on fecal sacs.
In the meantime, feast your eyes on these awesome eggs. The size, shape, color pattern are all unique to the species they come from. Learn more about how grassland birds lay their clutch of beautiful eggs in our Into the Nest post from May 31: There is nothing so beautiful as a bird's egg.
Raising chicks in a grassland is challenging enough, but prairie storms take it to a whole new level. This grasshopper sparrow is trying to keep her chicks warm and dry despite the thunderstorm, but these rowdy young'uns keep bouncing her around. The chicks are 8 days old, and close to fledging. Sometimes at this stage, the adults will leave the chicks on their own and go catch some shut-eye somewhere nearby. (Sound familiar to anyone?) I don't blame them!