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Top 25 Wild Bird Brood Parasites

Brood parasites are an incredibly interesting group of birds. Instead of going to the trouble of building their own nests and raising their own young, they out-source these functions to other birds. They will lay their eggs in the nests of other breeding birds and allow them to raise their young on their behalf. They...

Brood parasites are an incredibly interesting group of birds. Instead of going to the trouble of building their own nests and raising their own young, they out-source these functions to other birds. They will lay their eggs in the nests of other breeding birds and allow them to raise their young on their behalf. They achieve this through a number of adaptations. Some species mimic the colour and shape of the host’s egg. Others have chicks with structures in their mouths which hyper stimulate the parents to feed them. The adult or chick parasite will also often kill the hosts’s chicks or remove the eggs in the nest, thus ensuring that the parasite survives. However hosts are not completely helpless to this attack, hosts have co-evolved behaviours such as abandoning a nest if it is parasitised. However some hosts are capable of raising both their own young and a parasite, without any visible cost.

Here we present 25 of best photographs of brood parasites, enjoy! If you would like to share your photographs with us, you can upload them to the Facebook page with species, location and photographer as the caption. We will announce next week’s theme this coming Sunday.

A female Asian Koel photographed in Bangalore, India. These birds commonly parasitise crows (Paneendra BA)
The square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo of south east Asia parasitises babblers mainly, evicting the host’s eggs and young (Soumitra Ghosh)
In India the Jacobin Cuckoo is believed to bring the monsoons, this is due to their arrival shortly before the rains begin (Vinayak Yardi)
Common Hawk cuckoos parasitise babblers and laughingthrushes, as a result the fledglings call is very similar to that of a babbler (Paneendra BA)
The Shiny Cowbird of South America is a generalist brood parasite, they have been recorded parasitising 240 different species (Raymond De Jesús Asencio)
A female rufous morph Plaintive Cuckoo photographed in West Bengal, India (Subham Chowdhury)
A rufous morph of the female Sunda Cuckoo. These cuckoos are only found on south east Asian islands, this one was photographed in Indonesia (Ananth Ramasamy)
The Jacobin Cuckoo is found in India and sub-Saharan Africa. They parasitise various species of babblers across their range as well as bulbuls and fiscals in southern Africa (Dr. S. Alagu Ganesh)
Female Brown-headed Cowbirds can lay up to 40 eggs in a season, damaging and removing the hosts eggs as she does (Jola Charlton)
The Indian Cuckoo of India and south-east Asia parasitises drongos and shrikes (Mohit Ghatak)
This Wood Duck is raising two of her own chicks as well as a Hooded Merganser chick (Teri Franzen)
A Jungle Babbler feeds a Jacobin Cuckoo fledgling (Shaurya Shashwat Shukla)
Black-billed Cuckoos are capable of building their own nests and raising young but they also occasionally lay in the nests of other birds (Owen Deutsch)
Shiny Cowbird chicks do not mimic their host’s chicks but nonetheless their host provisions just as much for them as for their own chicks (Mann Niyati)
Common Hawk-cuckoos are typically found in wooded areas, foraging in the tree tops (Radhakrishnan Sadasivam)
A newly fledged Brown-headed Cowbird calls for its parents (Jola Charlton)
A female Grey-bellied Cuckoo. These cuckoos usually parasitise Common Tailorbirds, the tailorbirds will abandon a parasitised clutch 20% of the time (Vishal Monakar)
Male Pin-tailed Whydahs aggressively protect their territory, chasing away any other birds (Leslie Reagan)
The colour of the Plaintive Cuckoos eggs depend on which host they use (Asutosh Pal)
In India the Banded Bay Cuckoo parasitises the Common Iora (Panthera Tigris)
An Asian Koel photographed at Hebbal Lake, India by Ravishankar P
Several Chestnut-winged Cuckoos may be raised out of a single host’s nest, this would certainly place an additional burden on these parents (Subham Chowdhury)
There are often massive size differences between parasitises and their hosts, such as this Common Cuckoo being fed by a Meadow Pipit in Ireland (Nigel Moore)
A Common Hawk Cuckoo photographed in Sultanpur National Park, India (Vishal Monakar)
On the third or fourth day after hatching, the Indian cuckoo chick pushes any other eggs and chicks out of the nest (Subham Chowdhury)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager


Wild Birds of the Night


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Meet the Author

Steve Boyes
Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.