As some of you know, I’ve been keeping tabs on a sparrow nest in our hanging planter. I was faced with a decision whether to leave the nest alone, or take out a parasitic cowbird egg and destroy it.
Ultimately, I decided not to mess with the nest. In debating (and debating) the decision, I realized I’m much more comfortable with taking future preventive measures, like putting up a bird house with a hole too small for cowbirds to get in, than I am with playing some sort of nature god. I like helping underdogs whenever possible (for me, underdog is defined as children, endangered species, literal dogs, and basically all of the natural world) but I just wasn’t sure taking out the cowbird egg was the right thing to do because of the possibility that the mama cowbird would take revenge on the sparrow’s eggs.
When I checked the nest last week, there were only two little blue eggs left from the original five, plus the cowbird egg still resting in the middle. I felt relief I hadn’t taken the cowbird egg out because then I’d be fretting that I’d caused the mama cowbird to come back and destroy those blue eggs.
When I checked Monday of this week, there was one baby bird lying quite tired and weak on its side, but I could see the heart beating. It must have just hatched. It was the only bird in the nest, and I couldn’t see any other eggs. It seemed pretty large, so I worried the cowbird was the only one that made it.
I checked today when I brought the planter down for watering. Mama bird, knowing the routine, flew out when she saw me coming with the watering can. (I swear she knows what she’s doing; she doesn’t fly out right away when I exit the house without the watering can.) The hatchling sat in the nest, furiously extending its mouth for food when I peered through the leaves. Still no other hatchlings or eggs.
Oh well, I thought. Then I saw the speckled cowbird egg—outside of the nest but still in the planter. Maybe the remains of the hatchling’s shell? But no—I picked it up and it is whole. And quite light—I really don’t think there’s even anything in there.
If I had played nature god and taken out the cowbird egg (if, in fact, it is a cowbird egg), I would now be thinking that I caused the destruction of the other blue eggs. I’d love to know what happened to them, but I can rest easy knowing it had nothing to do with me.
It seems our little baby sparrow has survived. Mama sparrow thanks you for all the finger crossing you’ve done in her honor. Keep them crossed a little while longer.