We observed a young male Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) about 35 days old being fed by adults associated with a neighboring territory. A survey of biologists studying this species revealed similar acts of adoption had been observed elsewhere, but the behavior appeared to be very rare. Adoption generally implies a cost to adults because care is provided to unrelated young, but the situation is complicated in cooperative breeders such as the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Adopted birds can help breeding adults raise additional young, and the adopted male we observed remained as a helper in its adopted territory and fed young the following breeding season.
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