There is a lot of racket in the backyard these days — cowbird chicks have fledged and are once again driving their Chipping Sparrow parents crazy with their persistent chirping demands to be fed. I have recently written about the Cowbird’s “Mafia strategy” for getting other species to raise its chicks (you can click here to (re)read that post). The unfortunate Chipping Sparrows seem to be regular hosts for the Cowbirds in my backyard. This is the third year I have seen the diminutive little sparrows foraging intensely to satisfy the appetite of chicks that are twice their size.
And back the parent goes to find something else for this voracious eater it has mistakenly raised. Chipping Sparrows feed their own young, as well as their foster kids, insects, even though they themselves eat a varied diet of seeds, fruit, and insects during the summer. As I watched these host-brood parasite interactions, I saw the adults spend a lot of time hunting damselflies, flies, bees, etc. in the grass around the base of the buckeye tree in which this big baby was sitting.
The Chipping Sparrows didn’t spend all of their energy feeding the cowbird chick — I could hear them feeding a couple of their own babies that were hiding in the shrubs on the side of the yard.