Photo by Mallory

Photo by Mallory

Today is another day on our life's journey.

Perhaps here you can find encouragement

for wherever your journeys may take you.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Whose Responsibility?

"The price of greatness is responsibility."
Winston Churchill

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
Watch a video of cowbird laying an egg in another's nest:

It seems cowbirds not only don’t want to build nests, they aren’t much into traditional family lifestyles, either. When the female cowbird lays her one egg, she may damage or remove one or more of the eggs already in the nest. Then she flies off, never to return. Instead of protecting her egg in the borrowed nest, she leaves that job for the nest’s owners.

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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  1. Interesting post with a good lesson.

    1. Hey Ann, agreed. Thanks for reading and leaving your comment.