So how can you get rid of Cowbirds and their eggs? This article discusses bird control methods that are effective in exterminating these bird species.
Cowbirds!! I know, right. Overthinking about them starts to get to you a little bit. They’re not the worst though.
They earned their name from the habit of following herds and Buffalo (and cattle) in search of the insect prey that was flushed up by the large grazing mammals.
Ever wished you could just get a rifle and gun down some of those energy-sapping blackbirds…
Well, you can’t. They’re protected by law, under the migratory bird treaty act … Tragic, isn’t it?
Well, this little intrusive creature has caused a lot of collateral damage, not just for other species of bird, but, this little bundle of worry has managed to find a way also to tick humans off
A Cowbird is a blackbird that lays its eggs in the nest of other birds. Talk about having your bully, but as a bird.
Cowbirds belong to the genus Molothrus in the family Icteridae, and they are commonly found in North America. They are brood parasites as laying their eggs in the nests of other birds is the norm to them.
English naturalist, William John Swanson introduced the genus in 1832 (Molothrus Ater) the brown-headed Cowbird as the type of species. The family contains six Cowbirds:
- Screaming Cowbird (Molothrus rufoaxillaris)
- Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus)
- Bronzed Cowbird (Molothrus aeneus)
- Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis)
- Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
- Non-brood parasitic bay wings which are now classified as “agelaiodes” were formerly classified under this genus.
As estimated, it could take up to two hundred and twenty birds that would likely foster this parasitic bird. That’s just how they roll.
People hate the sight of these birds in their backyards because they hate seeing their beautiful songbirds raise the young of those invasive birds- birds that bully other birds and take over their feeders.
I guess this bird is building up a fan base of haters.
Adult Cowbirds don’t raise their young, nor do they do any sort of nest building. The lazy females lay their eggs in the nest of another bird species. Male Cowbirds have black plumage and a dull brown head, while the females have plain brown feathers with whitish throats and light streaking on their undersides and they’re smaller.
Cowbirds are considered one of the smaller blackbirds, standing at 7.5 inches in length and 1.5 ounces of weight. Brown-headed Cowbird has a short, stout bill, stocky body.
Ways To Get Rid of Cowbirds At Feeders And On Your Property
Cowbirds are a very naughty set of macro pests. Even though they are smart, you don’t want them anywhere near you.
But how can you get rid of them with all the laws and regulations safeguarding their existence to your detriment?
Lucky for you, here are some of the ways to get rid of the naughty bird without having to break the law. Some of the options are surprisingly effective, especially when practiced with a high level of consistency.
Choose Tiny Feeders
If you want the scrawny little pest off your environment but then, you love to feed other birds of your choice, the better alternative is to choose a different form of the feeder. Do not use a platform feeder because the birds you don’t want will comfortably perch on them.
Choose very tiny feeders that will make feeding difficult for cowbirds but easy for other types of birds.
Clean up After Bird Feeding
Don’t leave litters of feeds on the ground; this will attract cowbirds. Always clean up the ground after the other birds have finished eating.
Stop Bird Scouting
The one thing you should know about cowbirds is that they are witty- I don’t like to admit they are smart, but they are, in some ways.
If you start scouting for birds when you have cowbirds in your environment, they will follow after you. They work like spies, and they can track where your sweet little Bluebird’s box is and covertly take over.
Stop Feeding Them
Looking for how to discourage cowbirds? Stop feeding them.
I know you don’t mean to feed them, but if you keep putting out the food they love to eat, it will keep attracting them- you don’t want this, I guess.
Stop feeding your loving birds with feeds like sorghum, grains, or sunflower seeds. They also love vegetables like lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn.
In short, don’t feed your birds with anything that attracts cowbirds. Instead, you should feed them with safflower seeds, seut, whole peanuts, etc. Cowbirds detest these kinds of food, and they will stay away from your environment.
Choose tube Feeders
If you want to frustrate a cowbird, put feeds in a tube feeder. It will keep trying desperately to reach the food.
Tube feeders help in a great way to repel cowbirds since getting food from the tube is frustrating; the Cowbird will eventually learn to stay away.
The truth is, getting rid of these set of pest is not an easy task, and it takes more than a mere determination to get rid of them successfully
If getting rid of cowbirds is what you plan to do, then consistency is the watchword. You have to follow up on the above consistently.
Nesting Habits of Cowbirds
Breeding season for Cowbirds starts mid to late April and spans till mid-July. Females lay an egg per day for up to seven days, laying an egg or two in several different nests, depending on how many eggs there are.
This process goes on for several weeks, but intervals are observed for rest and then, the process picks up again and again. In total, she may lay up to forty eggs. Observation is very crucial to the female Cowbirds.
One might even call it their Forte. She observes and scans for nests to deposit her eggs. When she notices a nest building in progress, she waits till the nest is built.
But the observation doesn’t end there as she patiently lays still for the bird to leave, then she quickly goes in to lay an egg or two. But if there are eggs present there in the first place, she either destroys or throws one or two eggs out of the nest. And then lay one of hers in its or their place.
Laying an egg won’t take more than 20 seconds which gives her ample time to get in and out without the other bird noticing there’s a new egg in her nest.
If the host bird does notice the stray egg and isn’t big enough to throw it over, for example, a finch or a wren, it simply incubates it along with the others.
But big birds like the Brown Thrasher, Blue Jay, and the Cedar Waxwing reject the eggs, and if the Cowbird notices this, sometimes they come back to destroy the nests of their “surrogate” parents.
But when a young Cowbird does hatch, which is usually a day before the other nestlings, once they are alone, they can recognize other Cowbirds by sight and sound.
They then begin to assemble around other Brown-headed Cowbirds before the first winter. When winter comes, Brown-headed Cowbirds may join a grand roost with several blackbird species
Cowbirds are some pretty smart creatures; you have to admit. The fact that even being young they can find other Cowbirds by sight and sound and knee-jerkingly flock together is quite majestic.
And also the fact that the female Cowbirds can be so observant to the point that they watch another bird build nests. They then sneak in to throw out some eggs just to deposit a few of hers, and still be consistent enough to carry on that same process in other nests around is nothing short of extraordinary.
Of course, getting rid of Cowbirds can be pretty tricky. Still, following the guidelines mentioned earlier and shutting out the types of foods like millets, sunflower seeds, seeds from grasses and weeds, insects like grasshoppers and beetles, they crave the most.
And of course, if Cowbirds have damaged your crops, a bird vine unit can start protecting your orchards, vineyards, and other plants.
Despite how we feel about this bird, it is considered a beneficial animal since it helps t get rid of some harmful and plant-eating insects on the farm. This is why it has become unlawful to exterminate them or get rid of their eggs.
Due to a perceived sense of injustice, Cowbirds are often blackened. Some people occasionally just take matters into their own hands by removing Cowbird eggs from nests.
These are just bird-loving folks with well-intentioned attempts trying to save the chicks of other species. But they are wrong under the law because cowbirds are already protected by the migratory bird treaty act, taking eggs is illegal without a permit.
While some permits for the control of Cowbirds are granted, it’s only done when they are regarded a harmful to other birds.
Cowbirds bring extra unnecessary responsibility which was uncalled for in the first place and can be only avoided by taking measures to eradicate them.
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