Nests? We don’t need no stinking nests

It’s really neat to see a breeding pair of birds together. Yesterday we saw a pair of Cowbirds. There is a very interesting way that Cowbirds “raise” their young.

Male on the left, female on the right

The Brown-headed Cowbird is known as a “Brood Parasite” The Brown-headed Cowbirds do not make nests. Females put all energy into egg production, up to 3 dozen a season. Yes, you guessed it, the females lay their eggs in other birds nests. The eggs hatch before the host nest eggs do, giving the Cowbird young a head start. Some birds recognize these imposters and pitch the trespassers out of their nests. Some people consider Cowbirds a nuisance bird, as they are responsible for the destruction many songbird eggs.

Having spotted this pair, we can now surmise that somewhere nearby another unsuspecting bird family is wondering why that one chick is so much larger than the rest of their brood.

20 thoughts on “Nests? We don’t need no stinking nests

  1. Unfortunately the brood parasites can have a terrible impact on the true offspring especially if their natural offspring are structurally smaller as the cowbird chick will either exhaust the parents and cause them to focus too much time on feeding the larger bird or with their size simply kill or push the natural offspring out of the nest. Some birds are smart enough to extract the intruding egg out of the nest prior to hatching.


  2. It seems unfair, and so like some people in our society, but to each his or her own. I used to think if we taught our young properly we would end the have and the have nots, but that has been knocked out of my head. There will always be those the are takers and those that are givers. We just have to make sure that the balance stays even.


  3. There is a cowbird in my neighborhood that was raised by Bluejays, and I know that because he hangs out exclusively with the 6 or 7 of them that come around (Jays are not typically groupers) and he plays Lookout while they hit the bird feeder in turns. Pretty amazing to see him adapting their movements and sounds.

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