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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tricked you! Tiny reed warbler attempts to feed huge cuckoo chick she thinks is her own

By Daily Mail Reporter

Open wide... not that wide! The young cuckoo demands more food

It is one of nature's cruellest tricks... a cuckoo manages to lay her eggs in another's nest, fooling them to carry the burden of raising her offspring.

And these incredible images show just how determined the tiny duped birds are as they doggedly try to feed their giant 'baby' bird.

These photos of a reed warbler feeding a baby cuckoo were taken at Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire.

Little and large: The reed warbler offers up small morsels of food for the greedy bird

James Lees, the reserve warden who took the photos, said: 'I felt very excited when I saw it as I had never seen a baby cuckoo and it was amazing to see the two parents flying around desperately trying to provide it with enough food.'

Cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds' nests, fooling them into believing the chick is one of their young.

At the appropriate moment, the hen cuckoo flies down to the Reed Warblers' nest, pushes one reed warbler egg out of the nest, lays an egg and flies off.

The whole process is achieved in only about 10 seconds.

Please mum, I want some more! The reed warbler tirelessly hunts for food for the intruder

And the baby cuckoo clearly takes after their sly mother hatches first and then quickly disposes of any competition by kicking any other eggs out of the nest.

Mr Lees said there was a huge audience as the small birds tried to feed their intruder, who has a seemingly insatiable appetite.

'There was quite a crowd of visitors watching it as it was happening right next to our main playground, Welly Boot Land,' he said.

'A cuckoo is about the size of a dove, so it would weigh about five times more than a reed warbler.

'They also take twice as long to fledge as a warbler, so these poor parents are stuck feeding them for longer.'

Cuckoos are on the decline in the UK so when two pairs of parents arrived at Slimbridge earlier this year, staff were hopeful that they would produce some young.

The common cuckoo is a brood parasite, which lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly of Dunnocks, Meadow Pipits, and Eurasian Reed Warblers.



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