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Mary K. Ahmad

Spokane, WA, United States

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On June 20, My Our cat Cassie (on a somewhat supervised outing) caught her first bird which was fortunately intercepted. We were not sure if the bird was injured as it did seem weak and favoring one side, so to be sure we kept it overnight in a pet carrier (as the Wildlife rehab was closed) and the next day we fed her some skinless grapes (as is recommended) to keep her hydrated.

Our guess was that it might be a Sparrow that fledged too early since she was only able to fly-hop. The next morning, Stumpy (as we came to call her) looked healthy enough for release to her parent’s care, so we placed her in the backyard. Imagine our surprise when 2 goldfinches showed up to feed their “baby”. We took several pics of them trying to accommodate her demands and just couldn’t reconcile the differences between Stumpy and her parents.

After some online searching, it turns out Stumpy is a Cowbird. A species of bird that lays its eggs in another bird’s nest and leaves them to do the work, often at the expense of their own chicks! Poor Goldfinches! Further research on Cornell’s website about Cowbird nestlings in Goldfinch nests indicate they rarely make it past 3 days and are doomed to die as the Goldfinch predominately feeds on seed and the Cowbird requires more protein in its diet. I assess Stumpy made it 2-3 weeks and though I understand Cowbirds are often a birder’s least favorite species, we were rather impressed by her dedicated Foster Parents as well as Stumpy’s will to live. Stumpy may not be a rare bird, but her experience is and we felt she and her parent’s deserved to be highlighted.

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Feeding Time

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Stumpy The Wild Cowbird

Goldfinch Parent with Foster Cowbird

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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