Why do we hate the Brown-headed Cowbird so much? Is the hatred deserved? After all, cowbirds don’t fragment habitat.
The Brown-headed Cowbird is known to use the nests of more than 200 other bird species. Cowbirds used to follow the large herds of Bison and as nomads, didn’t have time for nest building and incubating. While cowbirds are native, they are often considered nuiscence birds because of their parasitic behavior. While some birds have learned to deal with these parasites, others have not had time to develop ways to counter the problem. This is especially a problem with rare birds like Kirtland’s Warbler.
Since 1972, more than 120,000 cowbirds had been trapped and killed. [In] the first decade of cowbird removal, parasitism dropped to just 3.4 percent of Kirtland’s Warbler. The number of breeding pairs, however, stayed about the same. In 1981, a prescribed burn got out of control and the wildfire scarred 24,000 acres of pine forest. The fire created more suitable habitat, and the number of breeding warbler pairs began to increase. – Wildbird, March/April 2005
While most birders would agree that Kirtland’s Warblers are prettier and “better” than Brown-headed Cowbirds, it is not our duty to pick one species over another. Cowbirds are just as native to the U.S. and perhaps more so since they are year-round residents. The problem is that human activity has created ideal conditions for these opportunistic birds. Instead of killing them off, it would be much wiser to create massive, unbroken habitats. Creating Bison habitat might just put the cowbirds back where they belong.
Would it really be effective to try and prevent Brown-headed Cowbirds from laying eggs in nests of 200 species of birds?