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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Heading In





Back still strong --but jeans sagging because worked ass off years ago-- and I still hate these sandals, but this isn't about that. Our specimen is heading in. His progress is halfway between south fence and back door. He is thinking about stuff. Bird stuff. 

He is thinking about Bellbirds. Something has been tintinabulating around the yard. Mrs. Specimen calls them Bellbirds. She took a Normaphoto: 
Specimen says Bellbirds are in Australia, not California. Mrs. Specimen asks her friend, Mrs. Otherspecimen, who says, "It's a Cowbird! Terrible creatures that lay eggs in other birds' nests and hatch out fast-growing gluttons that leave the other birds to starve!" Here is a picture of the nest:
As you can see, one of these eggs is not like the others. Although I really like the bell-like chirp of the strange bird, I'm inclined to believe it's a Cowbird --a feathered family that used to follow bison and leave their young to others. Their calls are similar, but I have not heard of Bellbirds in California.

Two days later, the little egg was gone from the nest. My guess is the owner of the nest pushed it out. I couldn't find it on the ground. Whatever is on the ground and has a shell is defined as food for other creatures. Earnest squirrel has kept his distance. The enigma is unsolved. 

All I know is, this bird, this specimen joined me in my inspection --and I cannot conflate the loss of one specimen's ass with the loss of another's egg.  We all work hard as best we can.  However, I would appreciate any and all suggestions about what sorts of birds are dealt with here.


20 comments:

  1. I am sadly ignorant about your birds but have commented so that I can get the follow up comments and be educated. And I am sure I will be.

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    1. Thanks,EC, I look forward to them too!

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  2. Interesting that the unwanted egg was disposed of. In my experience, resident birds do not evict unwanted tenants in the form of cuckoos, another bird that gatecrashes another's nest.

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    1. Tom, I've read that some nesters here do evict Cowbird eggs but the Cowbirds will exact revenge. Never seen it happen though.

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    1. Very energetic bird, Delores. Hardly ever still and moves really fast.

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  4. When it comes to our feathered friends I'm a complete birdbrain. I've never heard of Bellbirds or Cowbirds - but I really like that photo of the nest.

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    1. Thanks, Jon. Just checked nest today and there are 5 eggs again. More mystery. Will convey compliment to the photographer.

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  5. I have been doing some reading on birds, without much improvement in my knowledge base. However, I did check the internet for cowbird egg photos and yours sure looks like what I found. That is here along with several recordings of their songs, if you want to check it out: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Brown-headed_Cowbird/lifehistory (click on the Sound tab for the recordings). I expected the eggs to be bigger but this site says they are an inch long or less. Does this agree with your observations?

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    1. Thanks Jenny! Went to site and listened to both male and female calls. The pitch is right but the gurgling sound is absent in these birds. They have a short, shrill, repetitive chirp that sounds like a little bell. I think we're getting close, though.

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  6. Fascinating post. This is all news to me as I am unfamiliar with Cowbirds or Bellbirds. I am sending this to our neighbors and friends who are bird experts.

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    1. Thanks, Tom. That should put us even closer to identifying the little visitor. My own inquiry is stalled because the bird won't answer me.

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  7. I'm not familiar with bellbirds but I have heard that cowbirds have other birds unknowingly foster and raise their children while they go merrily on their way. Kinda like the stork and babies:)
    Worked your ass off....loved it.

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    1. Dear Sandra, I'm embarrassed by how old I was before I learned storks have nothing to do with human reproduction. Thank you for your kind compliment!

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  8. Geo. Here is the response from my friend and neighbor.
    Tom,

    Thanks for thinking of us. The bird shown appears to be a California Towhee (definitely not a Brown-headed Cowbird - the only species of Cowbird likely in Calif.) We can't explain the odd egg. The Towhee can be a host to the Cowbird. However, the Cowbird usually lays a single, white-with-dark-speckles egg that is larger than the eggs of the host, so its nestling will have a physical advantage in competing with the nestlings of its host.

    I don't moralize about the Cowbird's reproductive strategy. Actually, it is quite efficient and effective. The bird successfully maintains its population while investing nothing in nest building or rearing of young. (It does invest considerable energy in locating the nests of other birds.) And to my knowledge, it has not contributed to the decline or extinction of any of its host species.

    David

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    1. Tom and David, most kind. I have investigated the California Towhee and visited the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/California_Towhee/sounds), to get the tinkling chirp and believe David has nailed it. Thanks guys!

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  9. So glad to see that you may have identified the bird as the California Towhee. I have seen cowbirds around here, but they didn't look like your bird; ours have distinctive brown heads, which is why they're brown-headed cowbirds. Duh! I didn't know that cowbirds lay eggs in other birds' nests. I've added brood-parasite to my vocabulary tonight along with peel towers and Von Neumann probes. Great fun!

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    1. Dear Louise, I was suspicious when the two birds kept sitting on the nest. Cowbirds wouldn't do that. They both scold me with their beautiful tinkling voices when I get too near the privet they call home. If my hearing was better, I'd get their message: "Towhees! We're Towhees!" They are beautiful.

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  10. We now live in a different city with different climate. From balcony I can watch and hear bird song. Need a California Birds book.

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    1. Sounds lovely, Susan, an enjoyable balcony. I recommend the "National Audubon Society Field Guide To California". I have the 1998 Chanticleer Press edition and have found it most helpful in areas of geology, plants, animals as well as birds.

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