However, a few days ago, I broke out of my usual mold and took lunch to my husband where he was working. I was rewarded for my unusual wifely attentions with this Chipping sparrow feeding a new fledgling. The 'Chippie' was frantically rushing back and forth to the chick with beakfuls of insects. The chick chirped wildly when the parent arrived, rushing to her with it's great gaping maw, demanding food. The Chippie seemed to be trying to lead the chick further and further into the woods.
This baby bird could not quite fly or just wasn't bothering to try. It sat like a moribund lump between feedings, looking as if it might faint from hunger. Several times, the 'mother' (I can't swear that the Chipping sparrow was female) seemed to be trying to escape from the chick, which repeatedly ran after her when she was done shoving insects into its cake hole. The chick's appetite was to say the least, voracious.
I didn't see or hear any other chicks around. There wasn't time between feedings of this chow hound to have tended to others had there been any in a nest somewhere or elsewhere on the ground. Then, I noticed that the chick was at least twice the size of the parent bird and lacked any marking consistent with the parent. Then, it dawned on me: I was witnessing brood parasitism! Suddenly, what seemed before to be a wretched, defenseless chick became an odious mass of flesh, Jabba The Hutt of birds! The chick is not the offspring of the Chipping sparrow, but rather that of a Brown-headed cowbird! The poor little sparrow was being run ragged by her adoptive child. I could imagine what it would be like to have adopted an infant, a helpless baby that one would learn to love and adore only to have it turn out to be Idi Amin Dada! He was someone's baby boy once before he grew up to be a military dictator who slaughtered nearly half a million people. Even Jabba The Hutt must have had a mother.