House Sparrows Feed Tree Swallow Orphans
This is one intriguing story. The male House Sparrow killed the female Tree Swallow and then the female House Sparrow starts feeding the babies. Bruce said he trapped the male House Sparrow and looks like another male has shown up and is also helping with the feeding. Both male and female share in incubation and feeding responsibilities of the young.
Written with permission from Bruce Macdonald
Here's one for the record books...!!! ... I think.....??
Just ten days ago, I was proudly telling everyone how effective my HOSP trapping was and how few I'd seen lately.
Friday morning, I noticed a pair of HOSP harassing a family of TRES in a Two-Hole box that Linda V had sent me years ago. Why the HOSP went after that box....??? There are three other vacant nestboxes within a 150 foot circle. All plainly visible.
I chased the HOSP away repeatedly. They persisted. When I came home Friday evening, I noticed that something was amiss. After checking, I found the TRES female(..??) dead in the box with her five one-week-old hatchlings. Her head had been badly pecked by the HOSP. The babies seemed to be OK. Vigorous, active, hungry.
The TRES male (?) stayed around for the next 12 hours but did not appear to be feeding or caring for the babies. He disappeared yesterday, midday. Haven't seen him since.
It is now late Sunday afternoon. The babies are still vigorous & active. When I open the box, they're alert, peeping, sitting up to be fed. they look just fine to me.
( How long will they remain viable if they're not being fed and cared for...???)
Now for the surprise....!!! Unless I am badly mistaken, the HOSP female appears to be feeding the TRES babies...!! She's in and out of the box, carrying food in and fecal sacs out. I trapped a male HOSP but cannot be certain that if he's the female HOSP's mate.
Anyone ever witnessed anything like this....???
Bruce Macdonald, SW Ontario, south of Detroit, North shore of Western Lake Erie ( Only place in Canada where one must travel North to get into the USA )
The saga continues this morning...!!!??? I can't figure it out. The TRES babies appear to be OK, active, vigorous. The female HOSP is in and out of the box exactly as any parent would be during feeding a brood of young.
I've seen a male HOSP around the box, but have not yet witnessed him actually entering. I trapped a male on Saturday. At the time, I believed that he was the other half of the HOSP relationship. Apparently not...???
I'm wondering, do HOSP feed their young insects...?? or seeds...??
Bruce Macdonald, SW Ontario, N. shore of Western Lake Erie
Tuesday - July 12th, 2008.... 96 hrs since Mom's death
Here's today's update.
There are four or five TRES babies, orphaned last Friday, July 11th, when the female was pecked to death by HOSP.
The male (?) TRES stayed around until midday Saturday.
Since Saturday, noonish, a female HOSP has been diligently feeding and caring for the TRES babies. (what about her eggs..?? Her nest..?? )
Today, Tuesday, July 15th, the female HOSP continues her motherly duties. The TRES babies appear to be doing just fine.
When you get near the box, they can be easily heard. When I touch the box gently, their activity increases. When I open the box, they're all stretching eagerly, mouths agape, hoping to be fed. Full of vim & vigor...!!
The box is in a difficult spot to photograph. Prior to fully leafing out, the Trumpet vine doesn't entirely conceal the nestbox. But now, the box is well hidden by the foilage. Yesterday, I did some minor trimming so that I could get a direct view of the entrance.
With my digital camera, I can get dim shots of the box, itself, but trying to catch Mrs Hosp flying in and out is next to impossible. I'm attempting to borrow a 'Digi-Cam' and try to record/document this whole crazy affair.
Thank you Charlene & Keith. I was wondering how long the babies would survive on a HOSP diet. But, if the HOSP feed their own young insects, the TRES babies should make it.
Do male HOSP feed their young....?? Very early this morning, before sunrise, there were definitely two birds going in and out of the nestbox containing the baby TRES.
Late last evening, dusk, a male HOSP was perched near the box. I didn't see him go inside. He sat, 'churring' very softly and quietly. He seemed to be nervous and was twitching his tail. He was there for perhaps 10 minutes, then left. ( I wonder if he actually mated with the female foster-mom...?? Perhaps he's frustrated because he's been "Deprived" of that pleasure...?? )
More to come.
Bruce Macdonald, SW Ontario, N. Shore of Western Lake Erie
Wednesday July 16, 2008:
Good Morning Evelyn....
By all means...!! Please go ahead and use the story. This belongs to all of us. Most especially to regular contributors like you...!!
As far as me getting involved with the fledging, feeding, fostering, etc., ....I really have no intentions along those lines. If these were baby Condors, or some other threatened species, I'd view it differently. For the time being, I'm letting nature take her course. If some event comes up that calls for my interference, I'll deal with that at the time.
For your own personal update on this situation....
The HOSP feeding and caring for the TRES babies continues. Again, early this Wednesday morning, I noted that two HOSP were going in and out of the nestbox where the TRES babies are growing.
If I'm not mistaken, one of the two HOSP is a male. I have not been able to actually see and identify, with my own two eyes, a male HOSP entering or leaving the box. I'll keep watching, as time permits. Can you tell me if male HOSP are normally involved in feeding their own young...???
Please do remain involved. I appreciate your input...!!
Bruce Macdonald, SW Ontario, n. shore of western Lake Erie
Stay tuned for more updates.
Last edited by Evelyn Cooper; 07-23-2008 at 06:12 AM. Reason: Adding to post