This is a male Brown-headed Cowbird.  I think he is beautiful and first noticed him sitting high in a tree because of his loud singing.  Posting pictures of Cowbirds often results in people commenting about how much they hate them.  This is because Cowbirds are brood parasites–they lay their eggs in the nests of other species of birds and leave the other bird to raise their young.  The host birds then raise the Cowbirds at the expense of their own young.

I know this parasitic behavior affects the survival of other species of birds.  However, the root of the problem really has to do with human activities.  Before Europeans settled in North America, Cowbirds used to follow bison herds across prairies.  They developed the behavior of leaving their eggs in others’ nests because they couldn’t stop to raise their young.  At the time, there were vast expanses of forests, and Cowbirds would lay their eggs only in nests at the forest edge–they wouldn’t go deep into the forest.  So the effect on other bird species was not so devastating.  Now, as more and more habitat is destroyed, there are many fewer areas of vast forest–all of it is basically edge.  So the parasitic behavior of the Cowbird has a much greater impact.  In the end, it’s really the fault of habitat destruction and not the fault of the Cowbird.

So yes, I agree that Brown-headed Cowbirds are a problem.  But I have a hard time hating them, and happily snap their photo any chance I can get!


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4 Responses to Cowbirds

  1. Crooked Tracks says:

    I don’t hate any birds, they do what they must to survive.

  2. I just feel bad for them. Every year we have other birds raising Cowbird babies in our yard. Last year it was Cardinals and the year before it was Chipping Sparrows. I always wonder how the smaller bird parents keep up with those hungry hungry babies who are bigger than them. One day I watched and photographed a Chipping Sparrow going back and forth to feed a Cowbird on my front porch until I thought the sparrow would drop from exhaustion. Lovely photo, by the way! I love the funny sounds they make, don’t you?

  3. I would feel sorry for the sparrow too, if I was watching that! No doubt, Cowbirds cause some problems. I do like the sounds they make–this was really the first time I noticed. Have a great day!

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