Project Chekov: Brown-Headed Cowbird

Welcome to the second day of 2014.  Only a couple of days into the new year and I’ve already found a great way to force myself to concentrate on the new running mechanics.  Simply go out and run on ICE.  Nothing forces you to keep your foot plant underneath your body like knowing too much heal strike or less likely too much lean will put you on your ass.  Yesterday got to practice my windmilling a couple of times, but zero outright falls so mechanics starting to make its way into muscle memory.  Figured I’d bring out a new bird to the blog as the second installment of Project Chekov.  This isn’t a rare bird so to speak and in fact it has shown up at our feeders from time to time during the summer months, but all the other birds in the queue kept trumping it.  Time to correct that – introducing the Brown-Headed Cowbird.

This birds falls into the category of “Named by an Unoriginal Person”.  I can image how that first encounter went “Hey, look at that bird over there – the one with the brown head the color of a cow.  Never seen one of dem der winged thingies looken like dat before.  I shall call it Brown-Headed Cowbird and it shall be mine”  Honestly, is this the best the founder could have done?  Oh well, it is what it is and probably should be grateful it is this easy to identify – at least the males.

I tried to pull the shadows out of the RAWs on the two above, but just not enough there to distinguish the deep brown from the surrounding eye shadows.

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of the male and likely the female

As mentioned, every once in awhile they show up at our feeders – typically solitaire and not sure if it is a fear thing or what, but they are generally left along when they are hanging out there.

These two feeder shots had the shadows pulled out more at the expense of becoming soft, but wanted to show they keep a fairly constant shade of brown right into the eye area.  The body of these birds mimic their family with the black shiny tints of the Blackbirds.  I wonder if the other members of the Blackbird family make jokes about their heads being up their a.. I’ll stop there.

So, this is where it gets a little complicated.  I spent a long time trying to identify the bird below using the Internet search mechanisms and a stack of reference books.  Most of the time, the end result came out to be a Gray Catbird, but those typically have a darker patch on top of their heads.

While researching the male above, I stumbled onto this likely being a female Cowbird.  This in no thanks to the Cornell site indicating the females are plain BROWN birds.  Based on my other references and even our friends over at Wikipedia, the females are actually a dull gray – this checks with the specimen shown here.

In truth, I am not a big fan of this bird – specifically the female.  These lazy mothers do not waste their time building nests, rather cranking out eggs as fast as they can (somewhere in the 36-38 eggs a year).  But with no nests, where do these eggs end up?  Turns out they are “brood parasitic”.  Don’t panic, I had no idea what that meant either.  This means they deposit their eggs in the nests of better mothers.  What asses – from what I can tell from Wikipedia etc, they find a temporary vacant nest with eggs and slip theirs in there.  Now some birds detect this intrusion and toss the egg out (like Thrashers and Catbirds for example).  Others nurture it as their own often times detrimental to their own newborns.  If nothing else a lot of difficult questions having to be answered from the male of the nest hehehehe.  Just a mean nasty thing to do

Time for some viewer participation: Do you prefer the standard side pose above or the more viewer aware poise shown below?

The classic birders out there would be chastising me for “disturbing” the bird because clearly it is aware of my presence.  My response to that argument is on the left side of the picture.  If they want the easy food they have to be willing to put up with a little annoyance.  So my preference is the bottom one just because I like the viewer to be the object of attraction – think it gives more feeling to the image.  My opinion of course and interested in yours as well.

That’s all folks .. stay tuned were building steam

2 thoughts on “Project Chekov: Brown-Headed Cowbird”

  1. I like the last, more “viewer aware” pose as well–it’s not as standard and flat.

    I knew that about them putting their eggs in other bird’s nest. They have never been high on my list of birds to emulate, although I sometimes thought of doing that with my kids.

    Speaking of disturbing nature, there was an article in the WSJ this month about the etiquette of using apps with bird songs to attract birds for birding purposes. Not liked by other birders AT ALL. Apparently birding organizations have rules, and it’s a no-no unless you are the ONLY person around. (I think the real reason is that it fakes out birders as well!)

    Steam?? More like antimatter. Mr. Chekov, take us out of here. We probably have 2 or 3 more posts in TOS. Engage!



  2. ah ha.. two votes for viewer awareness .. check

    Damn DCFS .. always getting in the way of fun.

    I agree it is likely due to the fact birders still try to go on the honor system – if they hear it they can claim they SAW it which is a reach in my book – see, photo, blog to get in my checked state.

    steam baby .. steam!


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