Cowbirds are back, and that’s bad news for other songbirds in our neighborhood. A male Cowbird stopped by our feeders earlier this spring, then moved on. Thus time a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds fed on the ground, then started searching the brushy margins of our yard, and then the neighbor’s yard:
They probably were looking for a nest where they could lay their eggs. Cowbirds don’t build their own nests, and they don’t take care of their own young. Instead they trick other birds into raising baby Cowbirds. Last summer Cowbirds’ strategy succeeded in our neighborhood — I watched our male Cardinal feed a fledgling Cowbird in our yard.
When you think about it, it’s an amazing way of life. Cowbirds once followed American Bison herds across the prairie, so they could not afford to stay in one place long enough to nest. Since Bison almost disappeared, Cowbirds have spread east, tricking new kinds of birds and endangering some rare species, like the Kirtland’s Warbler.
When birds are endangered, conservation biologists trap and kill Cowbirds to save the threatened species. But I know I can’t do anything about the Cowbirds in our neighborhood. It’s one of those things I just have to accept about nature.
Here’s some comfort: There are still lots of Cardinals in south Oak Park. Today I heard ten Cardinals singing during my morning walk. (Go here to listen to their song.)
Here’s a blog post from eat more cookies with more information about Cowbirds: Cowbirds or bisonbirds — what’s their deal?
Note added the next day at 8:40 a.m.: The news isn’t getting any better, because this morning there were two pairs of Cowbirds in our yard!