Cowbird Entrepreneurs

Brown headed cowbirds are not a favorite of birders. I see their points. However, the cowbird entrepreneurs living here have my thanks.

Unlike most birds, cow birds do not build nests. They sneak into other birds’ nests and lay their eggs leaving those birds to raise baby cowbirds that often get rid of the competition.

At the bird feeder cowbirds move in as a flock running out most other birds. They inhale the sunflower seeds and leave the other more desirable birds to go hungry.

The first objection to cowbirds has become a big problem due to people. We cut down and split up forests so susceptible birds are left within reach for the grassland loving cowbirds.

cowbird entrepreneurs gather in trees
The brown headed cowbirds gather in the trees as the herd of goats approaches. Goats tend to race out to an area jostling each other. The birds are waiting for the herd to settle down and graze.

The second hasn’t proved out on our feeder. Our first feeder mob is morning doves. They literally cover the entire feeder floor leaving no room for other birds. Even cowbirds and blue jays give way. The cowbirds move in next, eat their fill and leave. There is still plenty of sunflower seeds, scratch feed and suet for the other birds.

All day I see cowbirds around the barn lot. They clean up dropped feed, ticks and other unwanted insects. I wish they ate flies.

Over spring lone star ticks are a big problem on the goats. By early summer the biggest nuisances, according to the goats, are the horseflies and deerflies.

This brings in the cowbird entrepreneurs.

In Africa rhinos, antelopes and elephants have tick birds sitting on them eating ticks and other bothersome insects. There are no tick birds in the Ozarks.

cowbird entrepreneurs sit on the goats
The brown headed cowbirds fly down from the trees and land on the goats. The goats ignore their passengers. The birds hop up and down the backbone checking for insects and ticks on the goat or flying up out of the grass.

This year especially I have noticed the cowbirds sitting on the goats. Mostly they seem to dive off after insects the goats scare up in the grass.

However, the cowbirds also hop up and down on the backs of the goats. A big, juicy horsefly must be a tasty cowbird treat.

The goats don’t seem to mind their riders. Any help eliminating horseflies is welcome.

Thanks, cowbird entrepreneurs.

Find more about our bird feeding experiences in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.