Cowbird, Brown-headed

cowbirdLatin name: Molothrus ater

Length, wingspan: 7.5″, 12″

What they eat: Seeds and insects

Plants that attract: Open meadows, grasslands, orchards

Where they nest: They lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. (see my observations below)

My observations: Cowbirds are a type of blackbird with a rather unusual breeding behavior. Rather than building their own nest and raising their own young, they lay their eggs in other types of birds’ nests and expect the unwitting adoptive parents to raise them as their own. Unfortunately, this often means at least some of the other occupants of the nest won’t make it, especially since young cowbirds grow quickly and act aggressively toward the “true” young of the adoptive parents. I used to think cowbirds were both innocuous and cool-looking… that is, until I learned their little secret. This behavior is very similar to what the cuckoo does. Cowbirds make rather strange vocalizations that sound to me like they’re gargling while singing!

Back to My Backyard Birds