There are some cases that the fledgling looks so little like the adult that I have to rely on the experts at BirdForum.net to provide an identification. That’s how I identified a fledgling Eastern Phoebe and the immature Red-headed Woodpecker.
Then there’s the Brown-headed Cowbird, whose young look nothing like the birds seen feeding them. That’s because female cowbirds don’t build nests, even though they produce more than three dozen eggs a summer. They lay eggs in nests of other birds that get stuck raising them. I have a photo in this collection of a male Common Yellowthroat feeding a much larger immature cowbird, but I’ve seen sparrows and other birds stuck in the same scenario. The fledgling cowbird is often much larger than the adult stuck feeding it, and it is the source of a seemingly never-ending “feed me” cry. The stress on the adult bird is obvious.
I once spent time watching an adult Song Sparrow try to escape from a fledgling cowbird. The sparrow would fly suddenly from tree to tree, entering one side before quickly leaving the other and ducking into the underbrush of a field. The cowbird followed every move.
I'm definitely not an expert. I'm not even a bird watcher. I photograph birds because it's a challenge.
But I have to admit it's a treat when I get a photo of something a bit different. And I count photos of fledglings as something a bit different.