Today marks one of my last days in the field, so here are some more photos from my day job!
First: Why don’t you go take a drive down N O road?
Second: a song sparrow nest with a cowbird egg. Unfortunately, we only ever found two song sparrow nests, so I had to cut them from my thesis. They were both parasitized, but this one was abandoned and the eggs from the other nest didn’t develop properly.
Third: opened up a bluebird box, but she didn’t want to fly out! Eventually she did but she came back after, don’t worry.
Fourth: I woke up one day to find that one of the cowbird eggs I was incubating had just hatched! I fed the little guy and took him back out to the host nest. I was incubating them because like 70% of the nests I found never made it to hatching. After this I always got them into the nest slightly before they actually turned all bird-shaped.
Fifth: Eastern Phoebe nest under the bridge at the golf course. They are often parasitized but not this time. They seem to stay in their nest until they are rather old!
Sixth: Dickcissel nest with cowbird eggs. The parents later abandoned the nest; not sure why.
Seventh: one of my experimental broods, two red-winged blackbirds and one cowbird (marked on the bill). I took them into my “lab”, weighed them, fed them, and recorded their begging behavior. It is SO HARD to distinguish cowbirds from blackbirds at this age!!
Eighth: Common Yellowthroat nestlings. It is vERY difficult to find their nests!
Ninth: walking around in middle-of-nowhere Illinois and suddenly a ravine with a lake at the bottom??
Tenth: Blue Grosbeak clutch with cowbird parasitism. These guys gave us such a hard time! At first we thought they were dove eggs (at a different nest earlier in the season), so maybe the nest was parasitized and then doves stole the nest, then there were three eggs (doves only ever lay two white eggs) so my advisor said dickcissel, and then we were thinking blackbird since we’d found a mutant with immaculate blue eggs. It wasn’t until I found a bunch of grosbeak nestlings with a cowbird and the parents came close enough for me to identify them that grosbeak even crossed our minds - they are very uncommon here except for at that particular site!
(note: birds in general do not have a great sense of smell, so touching the nest contents will not usually cause them to abandon their young - but it CAN lead predators to the nest and stress out the birds, so it isn’t recommended unless you have a good reason to!)