When I wrote a regular inspirational newspaper column, one of my articles was about birds, specifically about blue jays. After that column, a reader suggested I write about the cowbird.
I didn’t know what a cowbird was—hadn’t even heard of one. My first stop for information was Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: “cowbird: a small North American blackbird that lays its eggs in nests of other birds.”
Okay, I thought, the cowbird’s a lazy bird; doesn’t go to the trouble of building its own nest. But, I wondered, how does this poacher enforce its squatter’s rights; how does it hold onto the nest for raising its young?
|Eastern phoebe nest with one brown-headed cowbird egg|
The cowbird parents probably have no guilt over abandoning their young. After all, they’d left the baby with a caring mother bird. All would be well. Maybe not!
The new foster parents usually don’t realize they’re raising a castaway. But sometimes the other birds do discover the cowbird’s egg. Then they either toss the cowbird egg out of the nest or cover the egg, building a second nest over the old one.
Maybe our lesson from this little bird is that it’s best not to leave our responsibilities up to anybody else. Unlike the cowbird, we humans have a conscience—a feeling of obligation to do right or to be good. So, if we meet our responsibilities head-on and do the best we can, it’ll be easier to look in the mirror each morning.
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