Photo by Melody

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Molothrus
Species: ater


1 positive
3 neutrals
1 negative


This bird has been reportedly found in the following regions:

Auburn, Alabama
Mesa, Arizona
North Little Rock, Arkansas
, British Columbia
Highland, California
Klamath River, California
San Jose, California
Brookfield, Connecticut
Daytona Beach, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Melbourne, Florida
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Carrollton, Georgia
Algonquin, Illinois
Anna, Illinois
Cherry Valley, Illinois
Westchester, Illinois
Coatesville, Indiana
Popejoy, Iowa
Hebron, Kentucky
Irvine, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Traverse City, Michigan
Hamel, Minnesota
Marietta, Mississippi
Cole Camp, Missouri
Conway, Missouri
El Dorado Springs, Missouri
Jackson, Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri
Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Hamburg, New York
Himrod, New York
Yonkers, New York
Concord, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Chillicothe, Ohio
Corning, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Lebanon, Ohio
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Clarksville, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)
Houston, Texas
Keller, Texas
Orange, Texas
Spring, Texas
Broad Run, Virginia
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Newport News, Virginia
Penhook, Virginia
Portsmouth, Virginia
Walkerton, Virginia
Shelton, Washington
Lander, Wyoming

By EricBrian
Thumbnail #1 of Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) by EricBrian

By 2dCousinDave

Thumbnail #2 of Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) by 2dCousinDave

By 2dCousinDave

Thumbnail #3 of Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) by 2dCousinDave

By 2dCousinDave

Thumbnail #4 of Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) by 2dCousinDave

By dellrose

Thumbnail #5 of Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) by dellrose

By dellrose

Thumbnail #6 of Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) by dellrose

By 2dCousinDave

Thumbnail #7 of Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) by 2dCousinDave

There are a total of 32 photos.
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Member Notes:

Neutral plantladylin On Jan 24, 2010, plantladylin from South Daytona, FL
(Zone 9b) wrote:

The Brown-headed Cowbird seems to congregate with other flocking Blackbirds in the fall and winter seasons here in my area. We often see the Brown-headed Cowbird at the feeders during the winter months. Their diet consists of mostly grains and seeds but will also include insects.

Positive Mila1 On Jan 11, 2011, Mila1 from Memphis, TN
(Zone 7b) wrote:

Hundreds of cowbirds swoop down in one area and furiously peck at something on the ground. After about 20 seconds, they take off as a group and land on the trees above. Then they swoop down on another area nearby and continue to feed. Then they take off again and perch on the power lines above. In this manner, they cover the entire neighborhood, one section at a time. They only do this at certain times of day, I'm not sure what they're eating, but they do this every day, and whatever it is, it has to be a lot of bugs! I know people complain about these birds, but imagine what would happen if all those bugs didn't get eaten!

Negative tlm1 On Mar 20, 2012, tlm1 from Jacksonville, FL
(Zone 9a) wrote:

I've discovered that these birds are notorious for laying their eggs in the nests of others. Notably, Carolina Wren, and Cardinals, in my area. They seem to leave them for "others" to raise. They also seem to be "bullies" at and around our feeders. The only good I can say is they don't stay around for too long!

Neutral hippigirl63 On Aug 26, 2013, hippigirl63 from El Dorado Springs, MO wrote:

i am adding a pic of an immature bird that frequents my window feeder. this little mooch is still begging for food from a tiny (in comparison) indigo bunting, who looks harassed. i understand that indigo bunting nests are often parasitized by the brown headed cowbird.
interestingly, this bird was once called a buffalo bird. it developed the practice of leaving its eggs in other birds' nests out of necessity. since the buffalo, which the birds depended on, moved continually, the buffalo birds could not remain on a nest long enough to hatch and raise their own young. when the buffalo were replaced by cattle, the re-named cow bird continued its old ways.

Neutral Chillybean On Dec 13, 2014, Chillybean from Near Central, IA
(Zone 5a) wrote:

I do not really care for the bird because of their instinct to lay eggs in other species' nests, yet where can the blame be placed? Us or at least our ancestors, with deforestation so those who nested deep in the woods have to nest closer to the edge, and the near obliteration of bison and their habitat. How often people did things in the past that effect us today. Think about what you do now that will impact our children and beyond.

I cannot say I've seen any Cowbird bully other birds at the feeders, but we do not encourage the females to hang around during nesting season, but if she doesn't lay eggs here, she'll lay them elsewhere. At least we've never seen a Cowbird interested in the nesting boxes or Barn Swallow nests we've monitored.

I admit the males are funny to watch as they do their posing to impress the females. Such antics. And I like their bubbly call.

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