About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Brown-headed Cowbird's courtship display

Female Brown-headed Cowbird observing male's courtship display. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Along with the Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles, people are now reporting the arrival of the Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbirds are interesting birds. Instead of building a nest and raising their own young, they are a brood parasites and lay their eggs in the nests of several host bird species and allow them to foster their babies. The female Cowbirds wander about, laying up to 40 eggs per season (April to June).

Males are the first to arrive. They are a glossy black bird with a brown head and a pointed gray beak. The female soon follows. She is a dull gray/brown bird with lightly colored streaks on their breast, and a pointed gray beak.

Mate selection is controlled by female brown-headed cowbirds. Males court females through fluffed feathers, spread wings displays and perched songs. Almost all populations have more males than females, so females can be choosy. Males tend to be monogamous throughout the breeding season and try to maintain their pair-bond by guarding their female from other males. Females, on the other hand, tend to be promiscuous. There appears to be no reproductive advantage to mating with only one male as males do not provide food, nesting resources, protection from predation or parental care. Mating with more than one male is beneficial to a female's reproductive success, increasing the gene pool of her offspring. Males that are not in a pair-bond may mate with unguarded females, often when the female's mate is foraging. Video of courtship display: https://youtu.be/CcKvgMbjqXU
Source: http://animaldiversity.org/cowbirds
Related Articles:
- Brown-headed Cowbird: Scapegoat for humans’ bad behavior http://cowbird-and humans.html 

- How Do Cowbirds Learn to Sing? http://goo.gl/Y9HNDM
- How young cowbirds know they're cowbirds http://goo.gl/Jgmavd
- More about Cowbirds http://goo.gl/b1PkOd
- If cowbirds were in the summer Olympics http://goo.gl/Rajjtf

- Brown-headed Cowbirds scout for nests http:/cowbirds-scout-for-nests.html 

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