Two summers ago, we had a lot of visiting cowbirds, but last summer, we barely saw a single one. This year, though, they have shown up in force. They have become possessive, territorial, and aggressive to all the other birds.

Yesterday, though, they tried to take on a big Red-Bellied Woodpecker and quickly learned that they were outclassed. We get a lot of baby “half-size” Red-Bellies, but these guys were big. At least half again as big as the cowbirds with a beak as long as the cowbirds’ heads. They backed off in a hurry.

There is something very Hitchcockian about finding yourself outside, looking up, and seeing branches full of black cowbirds. Of course, they aren’t black. They are brown and black, but deep blue or green in sunlight, Yet — they lurk.

Categories: #Birds, #gallery, #Photography, Anecdote, Wildlife, Woodpeckers

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6 replies

  1. We do not have them in Europe, although you get a few aggressive birds now and again, but they are usually just looking for food and not a fight.


    • These guys aren’t really looking to fight, but they are very possessive and actually guard the feeders, pushing off all the little guys. I don’t mind feeding them, but there are a LOT of them and some days, they eat the contents of both feeders, the black sunflower seeds, AND both suet bars. That’s a lot of food. And the thing is, they aren’t really seed eaters. For them, seeds are dessert. They are insectivores, but they are too lazy to go bug hunting. I’m surprised they are still healthy considering that seeds alone can’t keep them alive.

      I’m hoping they decided to move on, though I’m not optimistic. So I’m still planning to take down the feeders for a few weeks when it finally stops freezing at night and let everything go forage while there’s plenty to eat. Fall and winter will come soon enough.


      • I’ve never heard of a cow bird. Absolutely new to me. Interesting for sure. The woody woodpecker is sure pretty.


        • The full name is Brown-Headed Cowbirds. These are interesting birds. They do not nest, but instead deposit their eggs in the nests of other birds who also raise their young. How the nestlings KNOW they are Cowbirds is an interesting question since they never meet their mother or father. It’s an open question.

          They used to follow herds of buffalo. Now, they arrive and try to make the feeders their personal territory. Interesting birds, but also annoying.


  2. That will teach them to be bullies and seed hogs.


    • Lazy birds can’t get it together to go bug hunting! They actually guard the feeders and push the little birds out of the way. But now, I notice when one or two of the woodpeckers show up, they decide it’s time to fly. The woodpeckers don’t usually fight back, but I think they just got tired of being pushed around by birds they could easily take down. Woodpeckers are strong!

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