2017-03-13 / Columns


Going to war with the cowbirds
KLONIE JORDAN — Executive Editor

“Oh no, those sorry cowbirds are back.”

“Huh, those what?” Dottie asked. She was in the kitchen cooking.

“Cowbirds,” I answered. “Come here and look.” I pointed out the double glass doors in the den. There are two of the backyard bird feeders where four cowbirds just gorging themselves.

Cowbirds are pure evil. I don’t see that they perform much of a service of any kind to any living thing. If there are birds in hell, they will undoubtedly be cowbirds.

I spend a lot of time and money in trying to keep the birds around my house well-fed, well-nourished and well-hydrated. There are numerous feeders, fountains and baths that afford the birds all the food, drink and resting / relaxation opportunities they might want.

It’s a bit of an inconvenience and I probably spend a bit more than I should on the vitamin-enriched seed and other items that will attract the birds. But it’s worth it to me. If you go out in my back yard on a spring morning, well, on any morning for that matter, and are still and quiet for a minute or two and listen, you will be treated to a songbird symphony that will thrill your heart and bring a smile to your face.

In addition to the serenades, I also enjoy watching the birds. They can really put on great shows with flashes of color and aerobatics at times. I think it’s great fun to observe them and I keep my reference books handy in case a species I might not recognize drops by for a visit. I especially love it when the ruby-breasted grosbeaks and the cedar waxwings show up.

But the cowbirds? Pardon my poor grammar, but I just ain’t got no use for ‘em.

“Why don’t you like them?” Dottie asked.

I explained about what kind of sneaky, lazy, ornithological slime they are and how they negatively impact the songbird populations.

A female cowbird will find the nest of another bird and push one or more of the nester’s eggs out of the nest. The cowbird then lays its own eggs in the place of those it removed. The nesting mother returns, not knowing some of the eggs there aren’t the ones she laid. She keeps them warm and hatches them and even feeds and cares for the young cowbirds until they are strong enough to leave the nest and go on their way to proliferate this nasty species.

Cowbirds can lay up to three dozen eggs each summer. That’s three dozen songbirds that will be destroyed. That’s three dozen songbirds that could have been hatched and raised to maturity to contribute to this wonderful symphony that I enjoy.

And I don’t know about you guys, but that makes me downright angry.

I reckon the question to be answered here then is how to get rid of these nasty brood parasitic rascals, or at least discourage them from coming around and raiding our feeders.

One method to make them go on their way is to simply take down your feeders. Just remove them from the yard and put them away for a week or so. Don’t worry; your songbirds will survive for a week or two without your feeders.

Another way to discourage these devil birds from coming around is to change the type of seeds in your feeders. Try replacing the seed mix that you use with an all-safflower supply. Cowbirds don’t like safflower seeds.

I’ve thought about just sitting on the back porch with a pellet gun and picking the pesky critters off one at a time, but that doesn’t really seem fair, even if they are worthless. Seems like you should give them a sporting chance. I wouldn’t want somebody to hide in the bushes at a fastfood restaurant and pick me off while I was in the drive-through lane. That just ain’t right.

I thought about wiring up an electrical connection to the feeders and using a remote control to zap the cowbirds whenever I saw one out there. Not enough electricity to kill them, mind you, just enough to, you know, send a message.

That might be funny but it would be cruel and unusual bird zapping.

So, nah.

One thing that puzzles me though is that the other birds haven’t gotten wise that the cowbirds are the bad guys in the neighborhoods and ganged up on them and whipped their butts.

Now that would be a great bird show to watch.

Return to top

Print Edition

Click here for digital edition
2017-03-13 digital edition

Special Sections


Who do you support for Cherokee County Sheriff?