Ed Golson Outdoor Education

Brown Headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Scientific Name: Molothrus ater  


Description:  Brown-headed cowbirds, like many other birds, appear different between the sexes.  Both birds are rela tively small being 7.5 inches in length. They have conical bills , long, pointed wings, and rounded tails.  The males are mostly greenish black with a brown neck and head.  The f emale, however, is more of a brownish gray covered in a green gloss. 

Habitat:  Most cowbirds live in the upper part of North America.  Recently their population has spread over more parts of North America due to deforestation .   During the winter these birds commonly migrate to the southern part of North America, and sometimes even to Central America.

Unlike many other birds, cowbirds do not build a nest.  Instead they become parasites to other birds by laying their eggs in another bird's nest.  Usually their eggs will hatch before the other birds'   eggs and their babies will grow faster giving them a competitive advantage.  Some birds have adapted to this and are able to recognize cowbird eggs.  Others, like the sparrow, have similar   looking eggs, and they have a difficult time distinguishing between the different eggs.

(Note:  nest with two blue cowbird eggs in with warbler egg)
Feeding:  Cowbirds are omnivores. They eat both seeds, an d insects.  Another thing they consume is gravel.  They do this to grind down the seed in their bodies.

    Click to hear the cowbird's call.

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