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Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is a small obligate brood parasitic icterid of temperate to subtropical North America. They are permanent residents in the southern parts of their range; northern birds migrate to the southern United States and Mexico in winter, returning to their summer habitat around March or April.

The Brown-headed Cowbird is typical for an icterid in general shape, but is distinguished by a finch-like head and beak and is smaller than most icterids. The adult male is iridescent black in color with a brown head. The adult female is slightly smaller and is dull gray with a pale throat and very fine streaking on the underparts. [Wikipedia]

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a stocky blackbird with a fascinating approach to raising its young. Females forgo building nests and instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes more than three dozen a summer. These they lay in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks. Once confined to the open grasslands of middle North America, cowbirds have surged in numbers and range as humans built towns and cleared woods. [All About Birds]

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird (Female)

Brown-headed Cowbird Facts [All About Birds]

  • The Brown-headed Cowbird is North America’s most common “brood parasite.” A female cowbird makes no nest of her own but instead lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds.
  • Some birds, such as the Yellow Warbler, can recognize cowbird eggs but are too small to get the eggs out of their nests. Instead, they build a new nest over the top of the old one and hope cowbirds don’t come back. Some larger species puncture or grab cowbird eggs and throw them out of the nest. But the majority of hosts don’t recognize cowbird eggs at all.
  • Cowbird eggs hatch faster than other species eggs, giving cowbird nestlings a head start in getting food from the parents. Young cowbirds also develop at a faster pace than their nest mates, and they sometimes toss out eggs and young nestlings or smother them in the bottom of the nest.
  • The oldest recorded Brown-headed Cowbird was a male and at least 16 years 11 months old when it was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in Wisconsin.

8 comments on “Brown-headed Cowbird

  1. We have 2 sets of them at our feeders they are a site for sure!

    Like

    1. None have found my feeders yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure you will see them someway sooner or later.. They are constantly at our feeders they stay hungry haha

        Like

  2. cyah1983 says:

    Wow! #ISEEBLUE
    THIS IS A VERY PRETTY BLUE AND BLACK MIX COLOR BIRD!
    GREAT PIC!🌍🌎🗺🌐😆

    Like

    1. Lol. It’s shiny black with a brown head.😁

      Like

  3. petchary says:

    We have Shiny Cowbirds in our yard in Kingston, Jamaica, who behave exactly the same way (parasitic, and apparently a problem for our endemic Jamaican Orioles). In fact, they brought up a large family in our yard last year. I don’t see so many of them around this year, and I hope they have gone!

    Like

    1. I hope they left! Good riddance. ☺

      Liked by 1 person

      1. petchary says:

        I will let you know. They have a beautiful song and are quite attractive birds, BUT….

        Like

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