The Cowbird

An Astonishing Lack of Moral Character!

Photo by Michael A Del Monaco

Most birds are faithful in their family affairs- but the cowbird is not one of them!

Their lack of moral character, unlike most birds, is astonishing.

The Philandering Male

The male is a shining, greenish-black bird, smaller than a robin, with a coffee-brown head and neck. His morals are awful, for he makes violent love to any brownish-gray cowbird he fancies but mates with none.

His song is a squeaking kluck tsw-ee, squeezed out with difficulty, or a gurgle, like water being poured from a bottle. When he goes wooing he behaves ridiculously, parading with spread wings and tail and acting as if he were violently nauseated in the presence of the lady. Hard to believe he is a cousin of the bobolink, behaving so badly!

The Lazy Female

And nothing good can be said for the female cowbird. Shirking as she does every motherly duty, she doesn’t even build a nest! Instead she sneaks about the woods, slyly watching her chance to lay an egg in the nest of a smaller bird. Thus she scatters her prospective family throughout the neighborhood, with foster parents doing all the incubation and baby-sitting.

The yellow warbler, who is a famous sufferer from her visits, sometimes outwits her, by building a second layer over her nest. Other less clever warblers, the vireos, some sparrows, and occasionally woodpeckers, flycatchers, orioles, thrushes and wrens, seem to accept the unwelcome gift without a protest.

The cowbird egg hatches very quickly and the young bird grows so fast that it hogs most of the food brought by the foster parents. The legitimate babies of the nest therefore often starve to death!

The good traits of this bird is that they do destroy a great number of insects. They receive their name by the fact that you will often see them at the feet of grazing cattle, or even perched on their backs, eating the bugs that pester these animals.

Return from Cowbird to A Home For Wild Birds Home

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