I stood at my bathroom window looking out. It’s a different angle to the one I usually have, from either the dining room or kitchen — or even Garry’s bathroom. Mine is at the very end of the house and I can see behind the deck.

What a plethora of birds there were today. Robins hopping around. Lots of cardinals. Nuthatches. Goldfinch and House Finch. Doves and today, strolling out of the woods, a few grouse. I’ve seen them before, but I usually can’t see them because they come from behind the deck which blocks my view. There was also a very small partridge. A baby? They don’t come for our feeders. They come for the seeds the birds spill on the ground.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Unfortunately, the cowbirds have come back. I stopped feeding birds — any birds — for several weeks in 2020 until the cowbirds left. Three years later, they are back. I will have to stop filling feeders until they are gone. I can leave the suet up because they don’t seem able to cling, but until they are gone, none of the other birds will get much to eat anyway. I know everything needs a good meal, but I draw the line at Brown-headed Cowbirds and plagues of doves.

It took about three weeks last time. I wish the weather were warmer, but there is a lot of food outside now, so I don’t think anything will starve and most of the small birds can cling and eat suet, which is good for them — lots of protein.

Like cuckoos, cowbirds do not nest. They deposit eggs in other birds’ nests, often destroying the native bird’s eggs at the same time. The Goldfinches are among the few birds who are not easily fooled and will destroy invader’s eggs. Not all birds are equally astute. I won’t encourage them to nest here. If there’s no food, they will move on.


Categories: #Birds, #Photography, Anecdote

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13 replies

  1. Don’t know about Cowbirds. Guess we don’t get them?
    Pigeons are the offenders around here. They dominate the feeder.
    Nobody else can get at it until they leave. You’d think that would be
    the behavior of Magpies, but they don’t go near the feeder at all.
    They like meat I think. Carnivores? Raid any catfood we leave out back.
    Spring is in the air now, so it will be interesting to see who might fly by …


    • Lucky you DON’T get cowbirds. They not only dominate the feeders but destroy the nests of many other birds, so once you get them, they take over and you suddenly have a LOT of cowbirds — babies and big ones.

      Then there is the question the no one can answer. How do cowbirds know they ARE cowbirds?

      Cowbirds are not raised by their parents. They are ALWAYS reared by whatever other bird into whose nest their eggs were put. So why don’t they think they are crows or doves or titmice? They don’t meet other cowbirds until they are fully grown. Pretty weird.


  2. What’s the problem with the cowbirds Marilyn, do they scare off the other birds?


    • They destroy other birds’ eggs and put their own in their place — like cuckoos. AND they are very aggressive. I don’t want them to breed here. We have a lot of nests — all our local birds nest in our back hedge or in the holly tree or nearby woods. If the cowbirds are here, they will destroy most of those nests, breaking up the native bird’s eggs and dropping their own in place. The larger Cowbird fledglings will usually kill any of the original fledglings that survived the original egg purge. Not the most desirable birds.


      • Oh dear, I had never heard of Cowbirds before. They are indeed like the Cuckoo, but here the Cuckoo is now quite rare, so its damage is limited. Your Cowbirds sound much more prolific.


        • I don’t know if they are equally prolific elsewhere, but they are late arrivals to New England. They used to follow buffalo herds, so they couldn’t nest because they were always on the move. Somehow, the migrated east and at least in New England, there are many nesting birds and they have taken over big time. They are tough birds, about the size of a starling and while shy individually, they form mobs and take over the feeders. Worse, they take over the nests and a few weeks later, we have even MORE cowbirds. I couldn’t see any of them this morning, so I risked putting out some seed, but they will be back.

          It took them three years to come back since the last time I took away the food until they moved on. I don’t like doing that, but there is no other way to get them to move on. No buffalo herds in the area, though we do have quite a few dairy cows.

          My only question is this: Since cowbirds aren’t raised by cowbirds, but by whatever other bird in whose nest their egg was left, HOW DO THEY KNOW THEY ARE COWBIRDS?

          Liked by 1 person

          • If I were a cowbird I would definitely feel I was experiencing an identify crisis.


            • They are pretty weird birds. There’s an ongoing discussion about how baby cowbirds who never meet their actual parents until they are grown and flying figure out they ARE cowbirds. They obviously do, but no one is really sure how.

              Some people think they have their “history” in a song. They are sweet singers which doesn’t compensate for the destruction they wreak on fellow birds. But their “life history” in a song? Can birds do that?

              Liked by 1 person

  3. The cardinal in your first photo…what a cutie. He looks either like he’s just worn out and is taking a rest or is listening for sounds on the other side of the feeder. Either way, good capture, Marilyn.
    How are you feeling today?


    • A lot of birds do that. I’m pretty sure it’s a listening position — listening to something down below? Or maybe listening for the bird on the other side of the feeder?

      I’m doing okay, except for occasional bouts of coughing. Overall, I am improving. Owen is already reading positive again. I haven’t bothered to retest me yet. I’ll wait until I finish the medication — and hopefully won’t get a rebound after that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just read your other post on Garry now testing positive. I guess the only ‘positive’ about this is that you all get it and get rid of it at the same time. In the meantime, I wish you a good night’s rest.


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