Male Brown-headed Cowbird - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Female Brown-headed Cowbird - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Brown-headed Cowbird - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Brown-headed Cowbird - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image  
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Brown-headed Cowbird
Molothrus ater

Blackbirds
Blackbird Family (Icteridae)

Size: Length: 15-20.5 cm Wingspan: 30-35 cm

Description: Brown-headed cowbirds are exceedingly common in the Rockies. Over the past few centuries they have expanded their range faster than just about any other North American bird. They spend their time collecting insects churned up by large animals like elk and deer, and occasionally man. More than one tourist has had a cowbird land on his head in order to collect the insects buzzing around. Needless to say they are less than timid. The males are black with a green or blue sheen. The head and neck are brown. Females are brown overall with light edging to the feathers. With their habit of collecting insects churned up by moving groups of animals, little time is left for parenthood.

Cowbirds are a nest parasite. Rather than build their own nest, the female sneaks around, laying a single egg in each of several other species nests. Often the cowbird nestling will hatch quicker, or be larger than the native nestling, ensuring its survival at the expense of the true nestlings. They have been known to parasitism more than 200 different species Many birds have developed defenses against cowbird parisitisms, such as abandoning the nest, pushing out the egg, or simply building a new nest atop the original. To compensate for poor fledging success as a result of these defenses, a single female may lay between 25 and 50 eggs each season. Their call varies between a rapid chipping call and a bubbly "glug-glug-glee".

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

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