Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird male (right) courting female

They occur in open or semi-open country and often travel in flocks, sometimes mixed with Red-winged Blackbirds (particularly in spring) and Bobolinks (particularly in fall), as well as Common Grackle or European Starlings. These birds forage on the ground, often following grazing animals such as horses and cows to catch insects stirred up by the larger animals. They mainly eat seeds and insects.

Before European settlement, the Brown-headed Cowbird followed bison herds across the prairies. Their parasitic nesting behaviour complemented this nomadic lifestyle. Their numbers expanded with the clearing of forested areas and the introduction of new grazing animals by settlers across North America. Brown-headed Cowbirds are now commonly seen at suburban birdfeeders.