Fun Cowbird Facts For Kids

Oluniyi Akande
Nov 16, 2022 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Aug 09, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Cowbird facts for kids are fascinating.

They are native bird species of North America. They belong to the blackbird family and inhabit the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Their evolution shows that they were initially based in the Great Plains area in North America, but later, they were distributed elsewhere. Cowbirds got the name because they were known to be associated with grazing livestock and preyed on insects that they used to flush during their grazing sessions.

They can be found in farmlands and grassland areas. They prefer open and large areas. You can also sight them at barns, thickets, pastures, orchards, prairies, forest edges, near roads, and suburban locations.

The male species are a little bigger than females. They have a black, shiny body, and the head is brown with pointed beaks. The female cowbird's body is gray, while the throat area is pale.

Brown-headed cowbirds are brood-parasite. The parasitism in brown-headed cowbirds has become a concern for conserving some other bird species in North America. It is the natural behavior of a female cowbird to not build its own nest and lays the eggs in the nests of host species.

You'll find in this article information regarding brown-headed cowbird, immature cowbird, Texas cowbird, cowbird song, cowbird call, juvenile cowbird sound, cowbird nest, cowbird chick, cowbird nestling, male cowbird flying range during winter, and so on.

For more relatable content, check out these fact files on the Hawaiian hawk and the vesper sparrow from Kidadl.

Cowbird Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a cowbird?

A cowbird is a type of bird.

What class of animal does a cowbird belong to?

Cowbirds belong to the Aves class.

How many cowbirds are there in the world?

There is not an exact count available.

Where does a cowbird live?

Cowbird species are found along a long stretch in North American Continent. They live in the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Their range is generally from the southern and eastern parts of the USA and Pacific Coast and continues till the southern portions of Mexico.

What is a cowbird's habitat?

Brown-headed cowbird Molothrus ater follows herds of bison to feed on the insects that they flush while grazing. They can be found in open areas with an abundance of insect life. Wooden edges, farmlands, grasslands, river groves, thickets, roadsides, and pastures form their habitat.

Who do cowbirds live with?

As they are generally migratory, cowbirds do not have their own nests. Females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. During the winters, they can be seen to form flocks with members from the Icteridae family and other European starlings. They also form groups while roosting.

They also form foraging flocks. They may maintain a large home range as they travel between nesting and feeding sites each day. The nestlings or baby cowbirds are raised by the host birds.

How long does a cowbird live?

The longest lifespan of a brown-headed cowbird is recorded to be 16.9 years.

How do they reproduce?

The female species being lesser in the count can choose their mating partner. Males perform a perched song and other displays to attract the female. Males are chosen based on their display performance in terms of spread songs and flight whistles.

Their mating system is monogamous. But this is not constant across the populations.

The normal trend is that males are monogamous, while females prefer to mate with others. Mating outside pairs helps the females to increase the gene pool and make reproduction successful. Males who do not have a pair mate with unguarded females while their mates are forging.

The breeding season of this species begins from mid-April and ends in August, and eggs are laid from May to June. Females can lay 40 eggs or more per breeding season.

Cowbirds are brood parasites species, laying eggs on other bird's nests host bird's nests. The host bird are foster parents to the eggs and young of the cowbird and raises the nestlings along with the other chicks. The young cowbirds or juvenile cowbirds grow faster and are soon ready to leave the nest of their foster parents.

What is their conservation status?

Brown-headed cowbirds are native to North America, and there is no probable threat to their existence. Their conservation status is of low concern. However, according to North American Breeding Bird Survey, their populations showed a decline of about 31% between 1966 and 2014. The IUCN status given to them is of Least Concern.

Cowbird Fun Facts

What do cowbirds look like?

The males are black with a glossy body, and the heads and neck are brown. Thus, the name brown-headed cowbird. The brown-headed cowbird females exhibit a gray color, and the throat area is rather dull. These songbirds or blackbirds have a sharp beak, black eyes, and legs, long tails. The young cowbirds are brown.

How cute are they?

Colors varying from brown to black to gray, brown-headed cowbirds look common and do not possess much cuteness. Nestlings and young cowbirds are brown.

How do they communicate?

Brown-headed cowbird’s song is like a gurgling sound that it repeats. Cowbird sounds refer to sharp whistling noise as a flight call. They also produce a sharp ‘chuck’ sound while flocking or in distress. Brown-headed cowbird calls range from whistles to chattering to clicking.

How big is a cowbird?

Lengthwise, they can grow up to 7 in (18 cm) and weigh about 1.6 oz (44g). Brown-headed cowbirds have a short and stout body, and their tail is of medium length.        

How fast can a cowbird fly?

The brown-headed cowbird's wingspan is 14.2 in (36 cm) and they use this to fly very swiftly.

How much does a cowbird weigh?

A cowbird can weigh around 1.6 oz (44 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no separate name for males and females, they are called cowbirds.

What would you call a baby cowbird?

Young cowbirds are called chicks.

What do they eat?

Brown-headed cowbirds eat seeds and insects. These form their primary food. Weeds and grasses, along with grains such as milo, rice, corn, and oats make part of the cowbird diet. Grains and seeds constitute a major part of their diet. The remaining portion of the food diet includes grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, spiders, and millipedes.

Are they bad?

The cowbird has a parasitic lifestyle. This means they do not build their own nest, but the females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.

This saves them from the effort of making their own nest and then taking care of the little ones. The young cowbirds are fed and taken care of by their foster parents. This time, they invest in laying more eggs by sneaking into the nest of other birds.

Female cowbirds are known to parasitize with over 220 species of North American birds. They are brood parasites, often known to destroy the host bird eggs and hatchlings if they reject their eggs. This act is even termed 'mafia behavior.'

They tend to terrorize host birds to ensure that they do not face rejection in the future to ensure the safety of their eggs and young. High cowbird parasitism has even caused many bird species to become extinct. They pose a serious threat to warblers and other host species.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they will not make a good pet. They live in open areas and around grazing animals. Brown-headed cowbirds species are free-spirited and cannot survive in an enclosed environment.

Did you know...

It is illegal to shoot cowbirds. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.

Cowbirds cannot build their own nests, and that's why they have to resort to parasitism. If they build their own nest, they steer clear from it so as to not accidentally kill their own chicks.

Types of cowbird

Screaming cowbird, giant cowbird, bronzed cowbird, shiny cowbird, bronzed brown cowbird, and brown-headed cowbird are some other types of cowbird.

Why is it called a cowbird?

Cowbird got this name as it moves along with a herd of bison and other grazing cattle to feed on the insects that these animals would flush during grazing sessions.

Should I remove a cowbird egg?

Although they have parasitism in their nature, removing cowbird eggs is illegal. Cowbirds species are protected by Migratory Bird Treaty Act which makes it illegal to remove or destroy their eggs.

Apart from the legal bindings, it is also believed that interfering with nature is not a very good idea. Cowbirds' nature makes them lay their eggs on the nests of other birds who acts as host to their eggs and young babies.

And the host also raises the cowbird eggs and nestlings, considering it to be of its own in most cases.

Removing of eggs can lead to nest desertion. Another reason to avoid doing this is that it can lead to redistribution by parents of cowbirds.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these vulture facts and owl facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Cowbird coloring pages.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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