Brown-headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater




Blackbirds (Icteridae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Light blue with brown flecks

Number of Eggs:


Incubation Days:

10 - 13

Egg Incubator:

Nest Location:

Uses nests of other species.

Nest Material:

Uses nests of other species.


Northern birds migrate



Brown-headed Cowbird: Small blackbird with glossy brown head, heavy bill, and dark eyes. Female is dark gray with darker streaks and paler throat. Juvenile is white-throated with white scaling on upperparts and white streaks on underparts.

Range and Habitat

Brown-headed Cowbird: Breeds throughout much of Canada from southern portions of Yukon and the Northwest Territories south throughout the U.S. Spends winters in central and southern parts of breeding range from the Pacific Coast, the southwest, the Ohio River Valley, and southern New England south into Mexico. Habitat consists of agricultural lands, fields, woodland edges, and suburban areas.

Breeding and Nesting

Brown-headed Cowbird: Nest parasite; usually one brown flecked light blue egg is laid in the nest of another species of bird. As many as thirty-six eggs are laid per nesting season. Incubation ranges from 10 to 13 days and is carried out by the host. Altricial young usually hatch first and outcompete hosts’ young.

Foraging and Feeding

Brown-headed Cowbird: Eats mostly seeds and arthropods. Forages on the ground, but sometimes hawks slow-flying insects.

Readily Eats

Cracked Corn, Millet, Nuts, Sunflower


Brown-headed Cowbird: Emits a gurgling, liquid "glug-glug-glee." Female's call is a harsh rattle. In flight, male makes a high-pitched, slurred "ts-eeeu."

Similar Species

Brown-headed Cowbird: Bronzed Cowbird is lacks brown head, is larger and has red eyes.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X