Brown-headed Cowbird ( Molothrus ater)

Brown-headed Cowbird ( Molothrus ater) 

The Brown-headed Cowbird ( Molothrus ater) is a bird of order Passeriformes, genus Molothrus and species ater. It is in the Orioles or Blackbirds Family (Icteridae). The species name means black, which describes the color of the male's body, shown above. The female has a grayer body. The head of both genders is distinctly brown, making this bird fairly easy to identify. The beak is finch-like. It prefers open country but will occasionally enter the woods around French Hill Pond. The photograph above was taken in these woods in April of 1999.

Adult Brown-headed Cowbirds will grow to six to eight inches (15 to 20 centimeters long) on a diet of seeds and insects. They are attracted to bird feeders.

The Brown-headed Cowbird ( Molothrus ater) is the only North American songbird that is brood parasitic, that is, it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and depends upon other birds to raise its young. A female cowbird can lay as many as three dozen eggs in one season depositing one white, brown-speckled egg in the nesst of other songbirds. Some bird species may reject the cowbird eggs or refuse to raise the youngster but most species accept the strange youngster and raise it as its own. The Cowbird is known to check on the progress of its young and destroy another bird's nest when the cowbird egg or young was rejected. This habit is a particular problem for the Ovenbird. The common name of the Cowbird comes from its habit of following herds of cattle to feast on the insects such herds stir up as they move. It is thought that the brood parasitic nature of this bird is due to this herd-following habit because it would not have an opportunity to establish its own nest.

 

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