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Science File | IN BRIEF

Cowbird Babies Trick Other Birds for Feedings

August 07, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Cowbirds, the freeloading American blackbirds born in other birds' nests, trick their foster parents into feeding them by letting their nest mates beg for food instead of killing them like the European cuckoo does, British scientists reported in this week's Science.

Their study shows that, at least with the North American brown-headed cowbird, having three clamoring babies in the nest stimulates the harried parents to the optimal degree. Cowbirds prefer the nest of the phoebe. The cowbird chick lets the phoebe babies beg for food, then opens its bigger maw at just the right time to get the lion's share.

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