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Shiny Cowbird Life History


Habitat GrasslandsOpen or semiopen habitats, especially agricultural areas with patches of trees and shrubs. Suburbs, lawns, and at bird feeders.Back to top


Food OmnivoreInsects, spiders, and grain.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Tree

Nest Description

None. Lays eggs in nests of other bird species.

Nesting Facts

Egg Description:White or pale gray. May be marked with brownish spots.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless with sparse pale gray down.
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Behavior Ground ForagerForages while walking on ground, scratches ground with one foot, feeds in trees, or with large animals. Often feeds in mixed flocks of other blackbirds.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernShiny Cowbird's range is expanding. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 200 million, with almost all birds living in South America, though Shiny Cowbird have been recorded in Southeastern states and along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico in the U.S. They rate a 4 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Though there are no immediate conservation concerns about Shiny Cowbird, there is concern about the effect expanding ranges that these cowbirds may have on their hosts. Parasitism by Shiny Cowbirds may have caused declines in endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird and Puerto Rican Vireo populations in Puerto Rico.Back to top


Lowther, Peter E. and William Post. (1999). Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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