Hatching Wild Bird Eggs - Worried Sick!


May 7, 2015

So, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with chickens, but I was wondering if any of you guys could help....I had a lovely cardinal nest in my front yard, with three eggs in it. Everything was wonderful, until I discovered two cowbird eggs in it. Well, everyone I talked to told me to destroy the cowbird eggs, or at least remove them from the nest. I couldn't kill them, so I took them into my house and put them in an incubator.

Long story short, the cowbird eggs were laid on Wednesday, April 23. The average time for a cowbird to hatch is 10-13 days, and this is now day 14. I've been candling them every few days, and at one point I could see strong, healthy blood vessels, and a little, moving embryo in both eggs. Now, all I see is a small dark smudge near the (enlarged) air sack. I thought the babies usually filled the whole shell, including the top? Why are these staying at the bottom? Should I throw them out, or wait a few more days? Both passed the float test.....

Thank you all so much for any and all help!
I'm not sure what an internal pip is.....is there something wrong?!
Eggs have an aircell at the top (rounded end) of the egg. When a chick is getting ready to hatch it will internally pip into the air cell. (It punctures the membrane into the air cell with it's beak. (You can see the shadow of the beak in the air cell when candling during an internal pip. After it does this it rests. During thiis time the bird is learning how to breath with it's lungs. You may even hear peeping from within the egg. Usually (at least with chickens) you see your external pip within 24 hours after the internal pip. The external pip is the beak poking through pushing the shell out to start the pip hole. Again it rests while the egg to chick vascular system shuts down and usually w/in 24 hours from there you see the actually hatching of the bird.
Not necessarily, but you may want to reconsider your desire to nurture baby cowbirds.

They are entirely dependent on their mother for food and shelter for several weeks. They are hatched naked, blind, and utterly helpless. They are not like chicks. Do you really want to assume that role?

If you had taken the eggs out of the nest when laid as suggested, it wouldn't be "killing" them. They are not viable baby birds at the time of lay. They are just "potential" birds if many factors work in their favor.

If by the "float test" you mean the eggs float in a bowl of water, that doesn't tell whether they are fertile or alive, just that they are older eggs. Living chicks would wiggle and bob the eggs in the bowl. If yours did not wiggle, they may not have successfully made it to hatch stage.
Here are some pictures:

I apologize for the blurriness :) In this picture you can see a little blob of (hopefully?) baby

Here is the same egg

Here is egg #2

Do any of these look like the baby may hatch? Should I just wait it out?

Thank you!!
The first one certainly looks far less developed than the second. The second looks viable. If you really want to hatch cowbirds, put them back in and wait a few more days. If they don't hatch by day 17 I'd turn the incubator off.
Yeah if they hatch you can be in for a lot of work. Songbird babies often need to eat every 30 minutes (unlike parrots and other species that can eat every 2 hours or so). I have no idea about cowbirds, hopefully you can find species specific info.

Also be careful about calcium in whatever you feed them, I personally would make sure to use an avian calcium supplement. Wild baby birds are really finicky and while they will grow like weeds their bones can suddenly shatter like glass because of weakness.

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