Watching and seeing

2 baby flycatchers in nest

Somewhere around June 13thit was pointed out that there was a bird’s nest on our Hydro box. Well, that was exciting! Especially since it wasn’t a robin. We’re used to robins’ nests in odd places.

What it was the nest of, though, wasn’t clear. It wasn’t that we didn’t see a bird in the nest, sitting on the eggs. We did. It was just that she or he sank herself right down so far into it that all you could see was an eye. I even set up a seven-foot stepladder nearby and went up with binos to see if I could get a better look from a higher perspective. Nope, she just went flatter.


But I did manage to determine that the plumage on her back was a kind of olive-greeny brown, and so off I went to my bird books looking for something that was that colour. Eventually I decided that it was most likely to be a flycatcher, and in fact later I was able to confirm this.

So! Babies! They didn’t seem to be too perturbed by my presence (the nest was next to a frequently-used door) so I set the stepladder up a bit closer, and after I figured something had hatched I went up it every day and took baby pictures. And here they are.

blob of lumpy baby bird in nest, cannot tell head from tail
June 18: there’s a blob! And it’s alive!
baby bird in flycatcher nest
June 19: Oh good, it’s got a beak.
June 20: Not the most attractive creature in the world, though.
June 21: it looks like a bird. Sort of.
June 22: Wait! Look at that second yellow bill!
June 23: Wait, what? There are two bills, one to either side!
cowbird chick with flycatcher chicks in nest
June 24: The older one is certainly a lot bigger.
cowbird chick with flycatcher chicks in nest
June 25:A lot bigger.
cowbird chick with flycatcher chicks in nest
June 26: Aw, now they’re sitting on the big one.
cowbird chick with flycatcher chicks in nest
June 27: Big Bird is getting pretty active.
June 28: And… Big Bird is gone. Just the younger chicks left now.
June 29: They’re pretty cute, though.
June 30


2 baby flycatchers in nest
July 1: Won’t be long now.

July2: I put my head up and said, “Hi birds!” and they said bugger that and flew off, looking like they’d been flying for years.

Now, if you’re more perceptive than I am, and not seeing just what you expected to see, you may have noticed something about the babies. In particular, about Big Bird.

closeup of baby cowbird


I feel pretty embarrassed by my denseness and that I could watch all that time without seeing what was going on. Of course the difference in size was obvious, but I just assumed that egg was laid earlier than the others. But you think I’d have noticed the difference in appearance, except that of course I assumed that it was just older and had developed faster. And the other chicks hadn’t fledged at the same time it had, And I never actually looked at my pictures at the same time till I started putting this blog post together.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure it’s a cowbird chick. They are certainly around, and they’re known for parasitizing other birds’ nests. But I’ve never seen it happen before.

3 thoughts on “Watching and seeing

  1. This is wonderful, Nola. What a treat to have them there and to have two different species in one nest.

  2. As your post went on, I was thinking cuckoo, but i wasn’t sure if we get cuckoos in this neighbourhood. Glad the little guys survived. Mom flycatcher must have been very busy.

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