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Bird Details

Perching Perching

Brown-headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater

Brown-headed Cowbird
Length: 8 in. (19 cm)
Occupying open forested habitats of all types, the Brown-headed Cowbird is a common species. It is most famous because it does not make a nest. Instead the sneaky female cowbird stakes out the nest of a blackbird, warbler, flycatcher, vireo or any of a multitude of other species and lays an egg in the owner's nest while the parents are away. The host species then raises the young cowbird as one of their own, even though their own young may suffer malnutrition trying to compete with the faster-growing and larger cowbird parasite. Brown-headed Cowbirds feed on seeds and in the summer insects, which they often catch in cow pastures. As the cattle meander through the pasture, their large hooves scare up insects from the grass, and the cowbirds catch them before they escape. Cowbirds have benefitted greatly from clearing of forest and introduction of cattle. The four-digit banding code is BHCO.

Riparian / River forest
Riparian / River forest

Shrubs
Shrubs

Urban city
Urban city

Agricultural
Agricultural

Savanna
Savanna

Mesquite bosque
Mesquite bosque

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Male
Electronic (sound type)
Bird Song
Download sound

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Male
Electronic (sound type)
Bird Song
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CR_BHCO_2_071501_S.jpg
Male
Electronic (sound type)
Bird Song

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Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.