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New World bird of the blackbird and oriole (hangnest) family. The male eastern, or common, cowbird is glossy black, about 8 in. (20 cm) long, with a brown head and breast; the female is gray. Most cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of smaller bird species, victimizing especially vireos, sparrows, and flycatchers. Sometimes the alien egg is ejected or buried under a new nest floor or the nest is abandoned, but usually the host bird incubates the egg and feeds the voracious intruder while its smaller offspring are starved or crowded out. Cowbirds eat seeds but feed chiefly on insects, following behind grazing cattle in order to capture the insects stirred up in this way—hence the name cowbird and the earlier name buffalo bird. Related birds are the bronzed, the California, the dwarf, the Nevada, and the red-eyed cowbirds. Cowbirds are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Icteridae.
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Landscape considerations seem logical for cowbirds because they utilize different habitats for feeding and breeding activities in the midwestern United States (Thompson 1994).
We recorded nest contents (number of host eggs and presence and number of parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird [Molothrus ater] eggs or chicks) and candled eggs to estimate days since incubation started.
Don't worry, if you attend a FullersBird Friday you won't get lectured about cowbirds. What you will get is a guided birding tour of a local forest preserve that's likely dripping with resident and migratory birds.
"If we were to stop the habitat management program, and likewise if we stopped cowbird control, those threats would immediately start impacting the survival of the species," says Mensing.
Sex ratios and survival probabilities of brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) in southwest Colorado.
Epigenesis of cowbird song: A Joint endeavor of males and females.
Skillful at stealth and stalking, brown-headed cow-birds parasitize birds of about 200 other species throughout North America; researchers have observed that birds of 144 of those species have raised cowbird offspring.
Even with parasitic cowbirds, "which are sometimes mistakenly cited as examples of parasites that are not very harmful," he says, hosts nearly always lose all of their young because cowbirds outcompete the host chicks.
Nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds represents a threat to the conservation of some bird species (Smith et al.
The birds are shown up-close in flight and interacting with other animals down below: barnacle geese fighting off polar bears that are invading their nests, pelicans plunging into huge shoals of sardine and anchovies and cowbirds shadowing bison herds to feed on the insects disturbed by their hooves.
Although rates of brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) are high in some warbler species (Ortega, 1998), there are relatively few published accounts with yellow-throated warblers as the host.