Saturday, April 09, 2011

Tail-less wonder

This feathered friend showed up at our birdfeeder last week:

But where is her tail?!

It's a female Brown-headed Cowbird.  My friend Happy Wombat Boy suggested that she is either molting or, more exciting, made a daring escape from a predator!

She's not as innocuous as she looks. Brown-headed cowbirds are parasitic nesters. Instead of builing their own cozy nests for their young, they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, and abandon them to be hatched and raised by the other mama and papa, usually at the expense of at least some of the host birds' babies.
I know a few humans with similar qualities...


  1. I wonder how well she flies without her tail. Don't birds need their tails for balance and steering?

  2. How interesting that they lay their eggs in other birds' nests then allow the other birds to raise their young! Very unusual as the maternal instinct tends to be strong in many animals ... although probably more so in mammals (excluding some humans).

  3. Hi Nat, We used to have alot of cowbirds in other places we lived. they were fun to watch - the males would dance for the females. But I didn't like the fact that they used other birds like they did! What's so tough about making their own nest? What, are they too busy doing other things? Like what?! I guess all species have their losers that dump on other people!! Such is life...

  4. I think Wombat Boy is right. I have a friend who has a chickadee at her place who lost its tail...that's how they get away from predators. I don't think they lose tails when moulting.
    And I LOVE your feeder? Where'd you get it? It looks really squirrel proof and that one fits the bill!

  5. Ahab, I would think it must affect her flight somehow!! My rooster Errol Flynn is missing some tail feathers, but he is hardly aerodynamic to begin with!

    CogDIs, I guess every species has its lazy bastards! ;)

    Lynn, they are too busy playing bingo at the birdy casino to make their own nests.

    Ronna, Gordon got it and I think it may have been at Ritchies Feed and Seed in Ottawa but I will ask. You can adjust it so that you exclude different creatures based on weight. The chipmunks can eat out of it, but not the squirrels. :)


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!