Misdirected parental care, or care directed toward unrelated young, has been recorded for many bird species. The Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) is not known to practice this behavior or allow other species to attend to its young. We observed a Wood Thrush nest with three Wood Thrush nestlings and one Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) nestling being attended by a male Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). The towhee fed the young of both species in the nest for at least 5 days and was subsequently observed feeding a Wood Thrush fledgling. The towhee also participated in nest maintenance and defense. The proximate cause of towhee attendance at the Wood Thrush nest remains unknown, but begging calls from the nestlings may have stimulated the behavior.
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Vol. 121 • No. 2