For some, a bird is a bird. For me, a bird is a study into their mystery. The bird pictured below, a brown-headed cowbird… I noticed him in my front yard sitting all alone in about the second week in February. I found it odd to see him there, because it usually isn’t until the spring thaw that we see them popping up in the trees and in the ground. And in one year, clinging to my screen at the kitchen window admiring his reflection for hours on end. Annoying as all heck.

Brown-headed Cowbird (male)

There is currently 9 inches of snow or more on the ground…so why I am seeing them? A few days later, I spotted the female Cowbird sitting high in a tree with another female…But it was female Red-winged Blackbird. I later learned those birds often flock together. You can a lot of things about birds in a very short amount of time. I encourage you to participate this weekend in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

February 12 – 15, 2021: The world comes together for the love of birds! Click here to participate!

Female Brown-Headed Cowbird (top) and Female Red-Winged Blackbird (bottom)

I have been posting pictures of birds I have seen in my front an back yards to help my friends and family on Instagram and Facebook get ready for the 24th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. I certainly would not have included this bird as a backyard bird you might see in February. But indeed, these birds do spend the winter in New Jersey. Even though you may not see them as often as your common feeder birds like Northern Cardinals and Chickadees, but still not one to turn down a free handout, this bird was at our feeders this morning.

In fact, it may be the snow on the ground that brought them to my yard. They are hard-pressed to find food in their typical foraging spots. I have feeders in my yard, but still I never saw them eating from it, until today. The mystery of birds never fails to amaze and astound me.

The Cowbird is a Mooch!!!!

Some people are not very fond of the cowbird. They have a terrible moniker: brood parasite. What does that mean exactly? Well, amazingly, these birds survive and reproduce year after without ever building a nest of their own! They lay their eggs in other nests and rely on those birds to rear their young! Talk about a mooch. They wait around for the female to leave the nest, and pop in, drop off an egg and fly away, looking for another nest to do the same thing.

While I don’t necessarily love seeing these birds in my yard, I do love the mystery in them and how like so many other birds of the world, there is an endless amount of information and things to discover about them.

When you have seen one bird, you have not seen them all.
–E.O. Wilson

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