Meet the new neighbors at The Holler!

The Brown Headed Cowbird is a parasitic brooder.

Females of this species produce up to 36 eggs per season, and lay the eggs in other bird’s nests to be raised.

They have the most unusual vocalizations, sounding something like underwater bells. No one knows how they know how to sing since they don’t learn it from their parents. Listen to samples of their song:

This Lark Sparrow is also a new neighbor.

They look similar to female grosbeaks,

except for their distinctive harlequin hats!

Cheers to you from The Holler newbies~

117 thoughts on “Newbies~

  1. Cowbirds and crows! The songbird’s enemy. I once saw a yellow-rumped warbler feeding a cowbird chick that was bigger than she was. But you do have some beautiful birds living near you.

    1. Amazing that you saw that! I read they even deposit eggs in hummingbird nests. Murders of ravens are an issue here now. They are over-populated and raid the nestlings every night at the same time. It is sad to watch. The parental birds defend valiantly, but they are way out numbered and outsized. I actually thought of getting a drone to chase the ravens off แƒ“

  2. Cowbirds (and starlings) don’t rank high on my list, but I suppose they have their place. Their song has similar tones to a bobolink, another bird of the blackbird family, which DO rank high on my list, hehe!

      1. Their sound is indescribable – kind of like a melodious, bubbly catonk-ing! And of course, the males are very handsome. I’ve counted 6 pairs in the hay field up the road. Quite a thrill as they are in steep decline.

  3. Very beautiful photos, as usual, Cindy! I have never seen the cowbird nor heard it, it’s call is very quiet. โค๏ธ

  4. We are over-run with Brown-headed Cowbirds here, and I will admit to chasing them off whenever I see them. Forest fragmentation has given them a huge advantage (they’re edge dwellers) and because of their bourgeoning numbers, they put songbirds that nest here at peril.

    Somehow, they find each other once they’ve fledged…they congregate in great flocks as adults, and maybe that’s where they learn to sing…from each other?

    The Lark Sparrow is an absolute beauty! ๐Ÿ˜

    1. How interesting. Raised by other species, but connecting together in flocks after fledging. They were never here before, but in a matter of days, I am seeing more and more. I am having problems with the ravens that are attacking nests every evening before sunset in great murders of birds. Accurate name for flocks of ravens. Their population is out of control. We have really mucked up our ecosystems placing so many species at risk. It is very sad. Western tortoises are nearly extinct in this area because Ravens punch through their shells and eat them. แƒ“

      1. Oh no! That’s so very sad about the explosion of the raven population and the havoc they’re wreaking. ๐Ÿ˜ข I wonder if scientists and conservation groups are studying what could be done to restore some balance (or if anything else we do might mess things up even more)? It’s all so disheartening…

        1. Yes, scientists are studying. They came up with a non-lethal laser that annoys ravens, but doesn’t hurt them, and makes them leave the area. It is not a real solution. I am going to try to chase them off the trees with nests with a drone. It should be interesting.

  5. Love the captures of the cowbird… looks like he could be in our territory. I’ll be keeping an eye out. Thanks for the link to the sound recordings. I’m thinking I may have seen that particular sparrow here, but with fading eyesight it’s getting a bit sketchy on specific ID these days. ๐Ÿ’ž

    1. If you spot one let me know. Sparrows flock around together, but there are distinctive species and they are sometimes difficult to differentiate แƒ“

  6. The cowbird song is incredibly high-pitched. I don’t think I’ve ever specifically heard their vocalisations before. They can be incredibly tough on the songbirds, but the parasites have their place as well. Cheers.

    1. We have over 500 species of birds here. Most of the species I have never seen, but new ones do keep showing up which keeps things interesting. There is a tiny ground bird here now that I have never seen before. I am going to try and identify it แƒ“

  7. Pingback: Newbies~ โ€” (another batch of new birds, from Cindy) | Rethinking Life

  8. They are cool. I think “Brown Headed Cowbird” is smart to have other birds raise their youngs. I am wondering, if they come back to pick their youngs back afterward?

  9. Hello, Holler newbies! I didn’t think’d heard of cowbirds before until I read your comment about their laying eggs in other birds’ nests. I have read about them but never seen a photo.

  10. So much fun having new kids on the block, Cindy! Is there something going on that draws these new birds to The Holler? Will they become permanent, or are they migrating through? So many questions … sorry!

    1. There is The Holler Spa, complete with bird bath, The Holler Seed Feeding Station, The Holler Nectar Feeders, and the grape jelly in the palm trees for everyone else. It is sort of a Vegas buffet for birds! Some stay year round, others migrate, waiting, I suspect, to return The Holler Buffet ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. 36 eggs!! Wow, no wonder she needs daycare! How interesting that they have a distinctive call even though they can’t have learned it. I like the little lark sparrow’s delicate markings!

    1. “36 eggs!! Wow, no wonder she needs daycare!”
      You so made me laugh!! No wonder indeed. Her neighbors, willingly, or not, are going to unwittingly raise those 36 hatchlings.
      Maybe she goes and has a bunch of spa days whilst they do! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Often times the other chicks die, because the hatched cowbird chick is bigger, and demands more food, and the poor parents then struggle to feed a nest they can’t. Sad.

  12. Are the new neighbors old neighbors just back for the first time this year? Or are they totally new? I wonder if global warming is playing a part. Wow, Cindy, I had no idea that cowbirds produced up to 36 eggs a year. I’m surprised they haven’t taken over the world. I also seem to remember that cowbirds push the legit eggs out of the nest? โ€“Curt

    1. These are totally new neighbors. It seems they might be on the way to taking over the nests of north America. They even lay eggs in hummingbird nests. แƒ“

  13. Cindy, you delight us with such stellar photography and bird sounds. We love our neighborhood birds and have provided shelter and food! Now that is a lot of eggs and using another bird’s nest is an interesting fact. You never disappoint with your beautiful posts. Happy Memorial Day Weekend. ox

  14. Welcome new neighbors! Can you imagine dropping eggs into another bird’s nest to be raised? Yikes! When E.B. White wrote “Charlotte’s Web”, part of the story is a conversation between Fern’s mother and the doctor, because Fern talked to the animals. The doctor talked about the miracle of animals. How does a spider know how to spin a web? The same can be said for how does a cowbird know how to sing? Nature is the greatest teacher.

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