Half a Story

Greetings, dear readers.

In spite of some chilly days, spring is in full swing here and while heading to the mailbox this morning I found half a story.

IMG_5785This half an eggshell is no bigger than a finger’s end, and not the blue to be expected of robin’s nest just above where I found it in the grass. Given that the shell is relatively intact and very clean, I am pretty sure that the inhabitant hatched successfully.

Two other recent observations suggest what is going on:

First, the only birds nesting in my yard right now are the robins, always early nesters and the bird has been incubating consistently for about a week, which is when she would have stopped laying. Second, just about the time the robin began to spend time around the nest, several cowbirds showed up, including a cocky little male, who pranced his sky-beak display on my deck rail. He was on the hunt for a mate.

While robin’s eggs are blue and about an inch long, cowbird eggs are speckled and smaller, like the one I found. Cowbirds also hatch several days faster than robin nestlings.

A-HA! As they say. The game is up. Cowbirds are opportunistic brood parasites – they will lay eggs in other birds’ nests to spread around the parenting responsibilities and their genes at the same time. Clever little creatures! Last year the Carolina Wrens built a dummy nest in a dense climbing Euonymus and then abandoned it, tricking the cowbirds. The robins are not so suspicious.

I won’t know for a week or so which nestlings have thrived in the nest. The robin parents have not started constantly foraging for insects yet, so most of the household is still quiet in their eggs, keeping warm under feathers on chilly spring nights.

I am hopeful that the robins will raise some of their own, along with their precocious adoptee, and that in about ten days I will be treated to the sight of gap-mouthed, pin-feathered, gawky little robins teetering on the branches by their nest, quickly outgrowing their pushy but smaller sibling.

In the robin’s nest, there is space for all. That’s a story I am glad to learn.

Here’s hoping you are all warm and safe in your nests like the robins. Be well, dear readers! All your comments and questions are welcome – I read them all and I am grateful you’re here.

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