Friday, May 1, 2015

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites—they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. At one time, cowbirds were only found in short-grass prairies. They followed buffalo and ate insects kicked up by the mammals.

With Western conquest of North America, forests were felled and forest and prairie were converted to farming and suburbia. Cowbirds moved into these areas, where they parasitized new species unadapted to coping with cowbird eggs in their nests. Many of these new host populations have declined as a result. Cowbirds can lay up to 40 eggs in a single season (Lowther 1993).

Erika and I photographed this male cowbird in a Dallas, Texas, suburb during our travels last March.

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