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Brown-headed Cowbird

Order: Passeriformes

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is in the family Icteridae.

The cowbird has a bad reputation among birders.  Why?  Because the parasitic female lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly those of warblers, vireos and sparrows.  Worse, she may throw out any eggs that were in that nest before she came.

Then, because cowbird nestlings are generally larger after they hatch than their nest-mates, they hog all the food that their foster parents bring to the nest.

This often has devastating effects on the natural offspring.  I witnessed a parent robin "teaching" a young cowbird how to search for earthworms in our backyard last summer.  I'm sure the robin never gave a thought to the fact that the young bird it had hatched and raised didn't resemble itself.

I must admit, their saving grace is their liquid-sounding song, a thin whistle that ripples in a pleasant sort of way.


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