One of these eggs is not like the others. I’ve been watching this Red-winged Blackbird nest and a cowbird did what Cowbirds do and laid an egg in it, leaving the care of her young to another. This is known as brood parasitism.
Coincidentally, a day after finding the cowbird egg, I heard a program on NPR’s Radiolab about the Kirtland’s Warbler. Habitat disappearing and the Cowbird were thought to lead to the decline and almost extinction of the Kirtland’s Warbler. So they started trapping and killing Cowbirds, and burning the Jack Pine forests to help new growth which is what Kirtland’s Warblers nest in. The efforts were deemed successful when the population grew, but the costs were questionable as a deadly forest fire took the life of a young man. They talk to the man’s family on the show.
I learned about Iatrogenesis from Nassim Taleb’s book, Fooled by Randomness. It’s when someone causes harm while trying to help. And now I believe myself to be in that category, because, just as I feared, a predator ate all four eggs.
I mowed around the nest attempting to spare it, only to mark it for predators. Another person would have mowed it up, allowing the mother to begin immediately building a new nest and laying more eggs. I, with my good intentions, cost the blackbird a week of prime nesting time and a cowbird one young.
Which brings me around to why I think it’s not worth preserving the Kirtland’s Warbler, besides the cost of a human life. We can’t begin to understand all the effects of our tampering. According to Radiolab, Michigan is using over 100 people and spending over a million dollars to maintain a habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler. And it’s working as numbers rise, but what effect is it having on everything else? Like it or not, we are a part of nature.