The Arc of History never ceases to amaze. First, there was the dinosaur head. Then the dragon head. Then the baby arcs. Then the nest with eggs. And now this. I recall that cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. After seeing the latest addition, I’m concerned that there’s a gigantic cowbird out there. It would have to be the size of a Winnebago. Should we run for our lives? – Seems Like a Bad Horror Flick
Action Line urges calm during the latest kerfuffle at the intersection of U.S. Highways 550 and 160.
Authorities have confirmed there have been no reports of humongous Molothrus aeneus. (That’s “bronzed cowbird” for the Latinly challenged.)
But the presence of a dark-blue orb in a nest of alabaster eggs does raise the possibility.
For a scientific explanation, we turn to our good friend and bird guru Don Bruning, Ph.D., who retired to Durango several years ago. He lives with his wife, Barbara, at Dalton Ranch.
Don is one of the world’s leading bird experts and served as the chairman and curator for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s department of ornithology.
The WCS is a big deal, with 500 conservation projects in more than 60 countries. It educates millions of visitors at its five parks: the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo.
So if anyone in the world would know about bowling-ball-sized eggs, it would be Don.
“That would have to be an awfully big cowbird,” he said with a hearty laugh.
Don confirmed that cowbirds are “brood parasites.”
The term “brood parasites” could also describe parents who drop their unruly kids off at the rec center for free baby-sitting. But that’s beside the point.
Anyway, the female cowbird doesn’t ever make a nest. Instead, she lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, which then raise the young cowbirds.
Most birds don’t notice a foreign egg in the nest, but not warblers, Don said.
“When warblers see a cowbird egg, they just make a new nest on top of the old nest and lay a new set of eggs,” he noted. “I’ve seen them several nests high.”
So that might be the next public-art participatory project now that the Arc’s nest has been fouled. Imagine the sheer awesomeness of a multi-layer tower of twigs next to rocks on a stick.
Don also points out that the large egg in the Arc of History nest coincides perfectly with the recent sighting of a rare California condor south of Dolores.
“The timing is certainly interesting,” he added.
But if one would extrapolate the size of a cowbird egg with dark orb, the bird would have to be at least 15 times larger than normal.
That would give the Cowbirdzilla a wingspan of nearly 18 feet, or just a tad smaller than the length of a Ford F-150 truck. Not quite Winnebago territory, but close.
Anyway, Mrs. Action Line was bowled over the addition of the Brunswick interloper.
“You might say he Arc adorners are on a roll,” she said. “This was right up their alley. Strike one for public art, because they can’t pin this on anyone.”
And if there is a freak cowbird out there with an 18-foot wingspan, it has good company. Maybe it can be friends with that dubious Bigfoot perambulating along the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks near Silverton.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you know the incubation period of a Brunswick Axis.