Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More cowbird

All the cowbird hate has got me thinking about the unpopular cowbird. Not only are they frequently blamed for songbird declines (even though the root cause is habitat change) but they appear to be generally unpopular birds due to their ubiquitous nature (bird watchers like rare birds), dull plumage and parasitic behavior. Cowbirds are an example of what many bird watchers consider to be 'Trash birds'.

'However, before we discuss how to lure these lovelies, let's consider what most birdwatchers agree are the "trash" birds: grackles, starlings, and cowbirds.'
Article on Birdwatching forum

'I have designed a feeder with only one perch on it. When a cowbird lands on it, I push a button and an electrical current surges through.... Everytime I zap a cowbird, a nestful of beautiful baby songbirds gets their wings'.
Readers comment on Birdwatching forum 

Is parasitism an ecosystem disservice (kills beautiful baby songbirds) or an ecosystem service (may be important in regulating the populations of beautiful songbirds)? 

For some cowbird love check out Cowbirds in Love - a daily comic about sad things, happy things, science, philosophy and occasionally obligate brood parisitism.

No comments: