Skip to main content

Bronzed Cowbird

Dateline: Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Corpus Christi International Airport. I'm awaiting my flight to Houston, then back to Columbus, Ohio. As far as airports go, I like this place. It's quiet and uncrowded. Houston will not be like this.

Thus, it is a good place to blog about beautiful parasites. And the following bird is a charmer, as far as such things go.

Bronzed Cowbird, Molothrus aeneus, male. Seen well in good light, the males are stunning, with shiny greenish-blue wings that contrast with the glossy black body. The glaring red eye shines like a beacon, and it looks as if someone whapped the bird over the head with a sledgehammer. The crown is quite flat in profile. There's nothing like these cowbirds, and they put the Brown-headed Cowbird to shame in the looks department.

I spent some time photographing cowbirds at the Laguna Atascosa Nat'l Wildlife Refuge visitor's center. They have plenty of feeders and water features, which pull the birds from the arid thorn forests as if by magnet. It was fun to watch everyone come in for quick cooling dips, and it made for great photo ops.

Bronzed Cowbirds are almost exclusively Central American in distribution, just barely nipping into the southernmost U.S. They are abundant at Laguna Atascosa, though - it is one of the most common species encountered.

They are nest parasites, though, with the females laying eggs in unsuspecting songbird host nests. Some species, such as the Yellow Warbler, can recognize the interloper's eggs, and will either abandon the nests or sometime build another on top and start again. But the cowbird's strange strategy works well, obviously, or there would not be so many whistling about the landscape.

Male Bronzed Cowbirds put on quite a show. When agitated or aroused, they often puff up the ruff of feathers around their neck, creating a thick bull-necked appearance. And when wooing a female, they'll hover flight right in front of her, about a foot off the ground. An amazing thing to see.

Hope you enjoyed that short vid of one of the parasitic beasts taking a dip.
Masked Ducks and Alligator Pond will be appearing here sometime soon.
Ciao.

Comments

Wil said…
Wonderful shots Jim. Looks like you had a great time in TX.
Wil
dAwN said…
Great shots..Looks like you had a great time in Texas!
Hey I really liked the video too..very clear and steady..unlike mine..tee hee..
I mention you and your blog in my latest post..thought maybe you could ID a turtle..or more..
Heather said…
What a neat-looking bird. Is their song anything like that of their Brown-headed cousin?

Looks like you've been doing quite a bit of traveling here lately! I look forward to meeting you at the Birding By Ear weekend at the Wilds at the end of this month!

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…