This is the moment a tiny hedge sparrow brought breakfast for a baby cuckoo FIVE TIMES it’s size – after being duped into thinking it was the larger bird’s MOTHER.
Cuckoos are brood parasites which push the eggs out of another bird’s nest and lay one of their own.
In a bizarre twist of nature this exhausted ‘mother’ sparrow had continued to feed the bulky cuckoo after it had fledged and left the nest.
Retired engineer Mike Stuckey, 64, photographed the unlikely pair in the garden of his home in Halstock, Somerset.
The cuckoo, which had left the ‘mother’ sparrow’s nest began appearing in trees and plant pots around the garden and continued to ”squeak” for its food.
The tiny brown foster mother would then pop down with a grub or a worm for the greedy youngster – before climbing up its BACK in order to feed it.
Father-of-two Mike said: ”I’d seen them for some time and I had wanted to get a picture but the hedge sparrow is a very shy bird.
”I could hear the cuckoo calling, squeaking away, and by chance it was right there, in a flower pot by the kitchen.
”The sparrow would disappear off for about five minutes, returning briefly to pass over what it had found before going off scavenging again, so there was quite a lot of waiting around on my part.
”It was pure chance that they came up so close. I had the camera there by the window because the previous night I’d been trying to get a picture of the cuckoo outside.
”I was hoping to get a better shot, but I’ve had a look on the internet and it doesn’t seem like many other people have managed to catch feeding in action, so I’m pretty pleased.”
Mike snapped the incredible image with his Cannon Powershot digital camera.
The cuckoo had perched on the side of pot of miniature foxgloves and began crying for its foster mum to bring it a meal.
The hedge sparrow, also called a dunnock, would then swoop down every five or ten minutes with a morsel, CLIMB up the cuckoo’s back, and pop it in the bird’s mouth.
Cuckoos are brood parasites, pushing the eggs out of another bird’s nest, especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers, and lay one of their own.
When the egg hatches the mother bird assumes the offspring is one of its own and proceeds to rear the cuckoo, often to the point of exhaustion.
Mike added: ”I love gardens and birds and I often take pictures of them at our bird feeders, but this is the most interesting one I’ve ever seen.
”I feel quite sorry for the little hedge sparrow, and I was tempted in some ways to shoo the little cuckoo away.
”The cuckoo has now disappeared, probably to the huge relief of it’s foster mother.”
The Breeding Birds Survey revealed earlier this week that one fifth of cuckoos have disappeared in the UK between 2008 and 2009.
The survey, compiled by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the British Trust for Ornithology, and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee also revealed that the population dropped by 71 per cent in the south west in particular.
Cuckoos have been designated a ”red-list” species by the RSPB because more than half of the population has disappeared in the past 25 years.
RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead said: ”Cuckoos coming into your garden, firstly, is unusual, and this is just brilliant.
”The second thing that’s unusual about this is that in Somerset, where this bird was recorded, most of the cuckoos are in the Uplands, on Exmoor. In the east, where this is, is very unusual.
”As for the feeding, I’ve only seen a cuckoo being fed like this once in 25 years of watching birds, so it is just wonderful to see it.
”And of course the poor old dunnock has no idea that this chick is not another dunnock.”