The Cowbird and the Finch: Cruel, Cruel Nature!

My neighbor has a beautiful nest of finch eggs in the hanging plant on her porch. I’m so excited! Just knowing they sit there makes me happy.

We take photos today, but we learn something awful; the brown-headed cowbird (a type of blackbird) has snuck an egg into the finch’s nest. This parasitic bird searches around for hardworking nest builders, and instead of building her own, she lays an egg into this mother’s nest–often pushing one of the finch eggs out to make room. In other words, this bird is a brood parasite who does whatever it takes to ensure her egg’s success. 

It gets worse. The intruder egg will hatch before the others and will grow fast and large, consuming all the food meant for the finch babies. Why does she do this? Well, God made this bird species too, so I have to wonder about her behavior. I learn this:

The brown-headed cowbirds grow their population so quickly in the spring because they focus exclusively on laying eggs. All of their energy, all of their resources, and all of their time is spent on this activity. The brown-headed cowbird maximizes output, but this all comes at the expense of others.

The finch will just raise the intruder bird as her own, not knowing what she’s doing, not knowing that she’s jeopardizing her own offspring. Oh, cruel nature!

I’m so mad at that cowbird. I’m so mad about those that exploit and damage others for their own success. I’m so mad about the finch that doesn’t have the intelligence to know she’s being manipulated and violated. Or, maybe that finch does know but has some kind of bird compassion that makes her care for the cowbird chick. But then, what about those other chicks who suffer because of her compassion?

Nature is too complex for me today. I wish the cowbird would build her own nest, even if it means her species isn’t the most numerous or the best. I wish the finch would learn how to feed everyone equally.

I don’t want to be a cowbird or a finch in this reflection. I suppose I can learn from both birds, though.

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  1. I wonder what kind of finch has made this nest. At All About Birds, I had learned that the cowbird nestlings will not survive more than 3 days on the diet of Goldfinches.
    Today, I learned that Yellow Warblers can tell the difference and will build a new nest on top of the old and lay more eggs if the is a cowbird egg in her own! Up to 6 times!
    More to consider…