Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday's Feathers: Bronzed Cowbird

Today's Friday's Feathers belong to the Bronzed Cowbird.

Like all cowbirds, the Bronzed Cowbird is a parasitic nester. That is, they don't build their own nests or raise their own young, they find an active nest belonging to another usually native species, such as the blackbirds, and lay their eggs alongside the hosts'. If they don't recognize the cowbird eggs, the host birds will hatch them and raise the young as their own. This can be a huge problem, because the cowbird eggs will frequently hatch first and/or their young tend to be larger than those of the hosts, and outcompete them for food, and ultimately, survival. Some states have active programs to shoot female cowbirds in an effort to keep down their populations and give the native species a chance.

I spotted this guy during the Backyard Bird Count last month. Significant, because the Bronzed Cowbirds are just now making an appearance in South Florida.

Here's a two-fer: That's a female Red-Winged Blackbird on the left and the Bronzed Cowbird on the right. Many folks don't recognize the female blackbird, thinking she's some kind of sparrow or warbler, because, well, she doesn't look anything like a blackbird. But the young look just like her, and over the course of a year or more (usually closer to two years), the males will gradually take on more black, and will eventually start getting the red and yellow feathers that make up their "epaulets". Someday I'm going to put together a series of photos of the Red-Winged Blackbirds from young to adolescent to adult.

For more Friday's Feathers, click here.


Daisy said...

I love learning about all these different birds because many of them probably live in my own backyard and I don't even know it!

Anonymous said...

I was so excited with I saw my first female red-wing thinking it was a new bird...NOT...I hate to see our song sparrows feeding a cowbird ....

Anonymous said...

I finally got here - don't ask!

This one seems somewhat like a cuckoo. Borrowing nests and upbringing from other birds. Nice photos.

Leigh said...

I identified one on a recent trip to Naples, Florida. It was on the ground with a flock of brown-headed cowbirds in Eagles Lake Community Park. I was about 5 feet from it, so could clearly see its red eyes with my binoculars.

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