I saw a little bird feeding a much larger bird. Is it rare to see two different species feeding each other?

April 1, 2009
A Chipping Sparrow (right) feeds a fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird. Photo by Mélanie and Kyle Elliott via Birdshare. A Chipping Sparrow (right) feeds a fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird. Photo by Mélanie and Kyle Elliott via Birdshare.
New self-paced course: Learn How to Identify Bird Songs, Click to Learn More

It’s not at all rare to see a Chipping Sparrow feeding a young cowbird. Cowbirds are “brood parasites” who lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. But it’s extremely unusual to see Chipping Sparrows and other songbirds feeding other young that are not their own. But interestingly, bird parents have an intense instinct to nurture young at the time their own young are dependent. Sometimes if a bird loses its own young, it ends up feeding another chick who is begging. The most fascinating case of this was a cardinal feeding some creatures that weren’t even birds but had large mouths the same size and color as baby cardinals—goldfish in a pond! You can read about that here.

I hope you take photos. This is a very fascinating thing to observe, and your friends will be most impressed!

Comments