Two weeks ago I was surprised and excited to find a new bird in my front yard. My excitement quickly dissipated when I discovered the new visitor was a Brown-headed Cowbird. Now I’m just beside myself wondering what to do as we appear to be Cowbird central for about 5 males and 4 females.
|Male Brown-headed Cowbird|
Cowbirds are bad news. They are referred to as “brood parasites”, because they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. The female Cowbird lays about 40 eggs in a year. Many of these eggs are laid in the nests of song birds.
Some species of song birds such as the Black-capped Vireo may be threatened by these birds. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, “studies have shown that the removal of one female cowbird enhances the survival of 35 songbirds per year.”
|Male Brown-headed Cowbird (left) and Female (right)|
When the female Cowbird lays her egg in the nest of another bird, she will sometimes destroy one or more of the eggs already in the nest. Sometimes the Cowbird chicks even push the other chicks out of the nest, so that the host bird ends up raising a Cowbird and no actual chicks of her own. With this sort of behavior, it’s easy to see why many attribute the decline in the songbird population to the Cowbird.