/kow"berrd'/, n.
any of several New World blackbirds of the genus Molothrus, esp. M. ater, of North America, that accompany herds of cattle.
[1795-1805, Amer.; COW1 + BIRD]

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Any of six passerine species related to New World blackbirds (family Icteridae) that exhibit brood parasitism.

Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, usually one to each host nest. Young cowbirds, which displace nestlings or outcompete them for food, may grow larger than the foster parents. In parts of North America, the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) parasitizes the nests of more than 200 other bird species; others use the nests of only one or two kinds of oriole. Cowbirds forage on the ground, often associating with cattle in order to catch insects stirred up by the cows' hooves. The male of most species is a uniform glossy black, the female grayish brown.

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 any of five species of birds (bird) that belong to the family Icteridae (order Passeriformes (passeriform)) that are named for their habit of associating with cattle in order to prey upon insects (insect) stirred up from vegetation. Cowbirds forage on the ground. In most species the male cowbird is uniform glossy black in colour, while the female is grayish brown. Cowbirds are parasitic (parasitism) egg layers; that is, they habitually lay their eggs in the nests (nest) of other birds. Young cowbirds, usually one to the host nest, customarily either displace competing nestlings or appropriate their food. They may even exceed the foster parents in size. Some species parasitize many kinds of birds, but others use the nests of only one or two kinds of orioles (oriole).

      Best known is the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) of temperate North America, which once followed bison herds and fed on the grasshoppers (grasshopper) that they flushed from the Great Plains. Since the great bison herds were exterminated and replaced by cattle, M. ater has followed cattle, and it now ranges from coast to coast. Its parasitic habits have contributed to the declines of other songbirds (songbird). Females may lay one egg per day for several weeks—up to 40 in a single season—often after removing one from the host nest. They have been known to lay eggs in the nests of more than 200 species of birds, of which 140 species are known to have raised nestling cowbirds at the expense of their own young.

Sy Montgomery

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cowbird — Cow bird ( b[ e]rd ), n. (Zo[ o]l.) The cow blackbird ({Molothrus ater}), an American starling. Like the European cuckoo, it builds no nest, but lays its eggs in the nests of other birds; so called because frequently associated with cattle. [1913 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cowbird — ☆ cowbird [kou′bʉrd΄ ] n. any of a number of small American blackbirds (esp. Molothrus ater) often seen near cattle: cowbirds lay eggs in other birds nests …   English World dictionary

  • Cowbird — Cowbirds Female Brown headed Cowbird Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia …   Wikipedia

  • cowbird — noun an American songbird with dark plumage, most kinds of which lay their eggs in other birds nests. [Molothrus ater (brown headed cowbird) and related species.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • cowbird — karvapaukščiai statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Molothrus angl. cowbird vok. Kuhstärling, m rus. коровий трупиал, m pranc. vacher à, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – trupialiniai siauresnis terminas – amazoninis… …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • cowbird — noun Date: 1810 any of a genus (Molothrus of the family Icteridae) of New World blackbirds that lay their eggs in the nests of other birds; especially one (M. ater) widespread in the United States and southern Canada in which the male is black… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cowbird — noun A small North American blackbird (Molothrus ater) that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds …   Wiktionary

  • cowbird — n. blackbird which is often found near cattle …   English contemporary dictionary

  • cowbird — cow•bird [[t]ˈkaʊˌbɜrd[/t]] n. orn any blackbird of the genera Molothrus and Schapidura, noted for their brood parasitism, esp. the common North American species M. ater[/ex] • Etymology: 1795–1805, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • cowbird — /ˈkaʊbɜd/ (say kowberd) noun any of the American blackbirds of the genus Molothrus, especially M. ater of North America (so called because they accompany cattle). Also, cow blackbird, cow bunting …  

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