I sat this afternoon watching a brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) sing from atop my neighbor’s car. It reminded me of these photos. So I figured I might as well share.
Cowbirds are nest parasites and their growing population puts increased pressure on the reproductive success of other species. This usually means people hate them, somewhat like they hate house sparrows and European starlings.
But I don’t hate them. Well, let’s be honest: other than sweet potatoes and yams, I don’t hate anything nature has to offer.
Besides, have you ever heard cowbirds sing? What melodious voices! What beautiful songs!
Oh, and the whole idea of nest parasitism is cool. Since cowbirds evolved to follow herds of bison across the continent, they don’t stop to build nests but instead lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Their young even developed a tendency to push other hatchlings and eggs out of the nest to increase their chance of survival.
And being black birds means they match my affinity for the underdog. Grackles, crows and ravens, blackbirds… They just don’t get respect, which makes me like them even more. They’re worth noticing more than they’re worth hating.
It’s interesting to note that cowbirds are succeeding because we’ve made it hard for them to fail. We mowed down all the forests and built vast swaths of open fields coupled with plenty of cattle. That created a perfect environment for them.