Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cowbird Sky SWF

1. Old Lyme-kab Cowbirds on the roof of the Lyme Fire Company in CT 10-21-11

When in Connecticut last week with my friend, Kathryn, we took a drive down to Hammonasset State Park. On our way as we were travelling along route 156 we came up a hill and I saw all these black birds on the lawn of the Lyme Fire Department. Quickly pulling over we stopped just long enough to count the birds and identify them before continuing on our way. I had never seen so many cowbirds in one location and was impressed by their numbers. It was only after I drove away that I noticed there was a dairy farm right next door to the fire company. So…that explains it!

2. cowbirds-kab Cowbirds in flight 10-21-11

Cowbirds are in the blackbird family. The males have a black body with a brown head and the females are a dull brown all over and often mistaken for sparrows or buntings. They are known for following the herds of bison and latter cows around eating insects and grains stirred up by the trampling hooves of the beasts. Because of their nomadic lifestyle they have adapted a parasitic breeding habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other songbirds and leaving them to be raised by the other bird parents. Because their chicks hatch sooner and are often larger than the small songbird whose nests they lay their eggs in, the cowbirds often force out the natural chicks and the frantic parents are driven to exhaustion trying to feed these changelings. I once had an oriole in Tucson show up in my back yard trying to get her cowbird chick to drink nectar from the feeder. The poor mother was frantic and the cowbird chick baffled at where the food source was. One thing I have never figured out is how do the cowbirds grow up and discover that they are actually cowbirds and not warblers or orioles or any other species?

3. cowbirds-kab We estimated that there were approximately 500 cowbirds here on this day.

 

4. cowbirds-kab While 90% of these are cowbirds, about 10% are starlings.

 

5. cowbirds -kab 

Enjoy more skywatching on…

Skywatch Friday!

 

6.rooftop-kab Cowbirds cover the rooftop of Lyme firehouse in CT 10-21-11

5 comments:

  1. That's a whole lot of cowbirds.

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  2. Hi Kathie

    That is a very good question, how do they deal with their identity crisis? I loved seeing so many Cowbirds birds together it gave me a good reminder of what a powerful force migration is.

    Regards
    Guy

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  3. Were they migrating Kathie? I sure hope so otherwise no other resident small bird species would stand a chance!
    Great pictures.

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  4. Gaelyn, yes it was! It stopped me in my tracks!

    Guy, if you ever find out about the cowbird thing, please let me know!

    Celeste, hello my dear friend! Nice to see you here again! I do not know if they were migrating. I can only guess. I can only tell you that there was a huge dairy farm next door with agricultural fields all around. We were only there for about 3 to 5 minutes as I was pulled off alongside the road in front of someone's house and I did not want them to come out and question what I was doing or call the police!

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  5. hey!! that's a lot of cowbirds!! did they lose their herd of cattle??!! at least the cows aren't up there on the roof with their little buddies! :)

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Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.