Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Cowbird

Well, I post every so often about how much
I love birds. They have such sweet
personalities and it is so fun to compare them
to human traits as far as their care for
their spouses, babies, or nests. Well, not this
cowbird! They are quite despicable birds!
The Brown-Headed Cowbird is the only
brood parasite bird in North America.
This means that they don't make their
own nests, but lay their eggs in the nests
of other birds. They don't take
any responsibility to hatch the
eggs or care for and raise their
young. Since cowbirds are a large
bird, their eggs and babies are usually
larger than the poor birds left to hatch
and raise the chicks.
It is quite obvious here which baby doesn't belong in
the family! Many times the small parents exhaust
themselves with the demands of these large babies
and their own young suffer.
Look at the difference in size of this adult wren and his adopted cowbird baby!
The males are shiny black with
a dull brown head, almost like a hood.
The females are entirely dull brown.
And they don't have a pretty singing
voice either. They actually sound like
water! Their song is a pair of low
"glug-glug" notes. We can hear them in our
back yard. A very unique sound!
Here's a Daddy Goldfinch feeding a huge
baby cowbird. But aren't the adoptive
parents sweet!? Almost like they have good
morals! They don't see the huge eggs
in their nests and flip them overboard to
break on the ground or abandon the
gigantic babies crying for all the food
brought to the nest. They raise them
as if they were their own.
So interesting!


  1. Ooooh, I really like that first painting with the red background!

  2. What beautiful birds!
    I was trying to take pictures of buntings on my roof but they all came out awful.
    Yours are gorgeous.

  3. How interesting! I had no idea that there were birds who would do that with their eggs.
    Ok, lets be honest, I thought "cow birds" were those white ones that you always see following the cows around the pasture:)

  4. They make cuckoos sound civilized.. :) Very interesting, I'd never heard of this bird.

    Did you ever see David Attenborough's series The Life of Birds? It was fascinating. Made after The Life of Mammals I think.

  5. Well for heaven's sake! How presumptive of this mother Cow Bird..Someplace back in time, either this prehistoric Cow Bird was quite clever or quite lazy...Nature is fascinating and your post, as usual, is very very enjoyable....Dee Dee

  6. Lora ~ cowbirds got their name from following bison around, sometimes riding on their backs. Not sure about the white ones you are thinking of!

    BP ~ Yes, a lot like Cuckoos! I'll have to do a post on them sometime!No, I didn't see that series, but it sounds facinating!

  7. Betsy, That is so interesting. Thank you for sharing. I've never even heard of a cow bird.

    I have pigeons and black birds in my back yard every morning. My little boys and I feed them. They're so fun to watch. I was really happy when I Googled the black birds and found that they are true black birds, like the ones in "Four and Twenty Black birds baked in a pie..." and written about by Shakespeare. Bird really are cool.

    Bless you!


  8. I'm going to keep an keen eye out and see if any of these birds are in my vicinity. With their colouring,they may be hard to spot in the trees. Thanks for all the information---birds are so fascinating, aren't they.


  9. I loved the post but was very encouraged with the way others care for these orphaned birds. Perhaps it's my work hat that makes me wonder how some babies born into hostile environments have a chance. I was reminded that it's not always up to the parent. Sometimes God has folks waiting "in the wings"!

  10. What imposers! Yet, like the rest of creation they were created to somehow proclaim the glory of God. Perhaps by bringing out the benevolence of other birds!


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