Common Name:Brown-headed Cowbird
Photo: Ivan Andrijevic
Brown-headed Cowbird is a blackbird. They look very similar to the Common
Grackle in that they have a glossy blue-black body. However, the Brown-headed
Cowbird is distinguished by its dark brown head and neck contrasting with
his blackish body. Like other blackbirds, the Brown-headed Cowbird is
dichromatic, meaning the male and female look different. The female is a
plain gray-brown, and could be confused for a large female sparrow. Cowbirds have a short, finch-like bill, very different
from the longer bill of the Common Grackle. They are 17-22 cm (7-9 in) in
size with a
28-36 cm (11-14 in) wingspan. They weigh 38-50 g (1.34-1.77 ounces).
Brown-headed Cowbird is found throughout the United States. They are found
year-round in Northern Mexico and the states east of Texas and Iowa, and
during the breeding season they can be found from California and up into
Alberta and British Columbia. The Brown-headed Cowbird is usually found in
areas with grassland and low or scattered trees, such as woodland edges,
brushy thickets, fields, prairies, pastures, orchards, and residential
areas. Cowbirds mainly eat seeds and grains, but also are known to dine on
arthropods such as grasshoppers and beetles. The Cowbird forages on ground, often in association with cows or
horses (which is where their name is derived from). Cowbirds often follow
walking cattle that will disturb insects on the ground and give the
Cowbird an easy meal.
Photos: Melissa Grippin
Brown-headed Cowbird is a brood parasite, meaning the female does not make a
nest of her own, but lays her eggs in the nests of many different species.
These unsuspecting birds then raise the young cowbirds. Studies have been
shown that Cowbirds do not prefer the nest or parent methods of a certain
bird. In fact, it has been found that over 220 species have been parasitized
by the Cowbird! The Cowbird egg is usually white or grayish with brown or
gray spots. Because the Cowbird does not care for her own eggs, it is hard
to tell the incubation period of the eggs, but it is most likely between
10-14 days. The young fledge between 8-13 days after hatching.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
Brown-headed Cowbird is
most likely to be found in places that have mostly short,
open grasses and scattered trees. They are mostly found in urban areas,
parks and along side roads and are found in WNY all year round but are most
common during the summer.