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Molothrus ater1.jpg
Female brown-headed cowbird
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Molothrus
Swainson, 1832

Cowbirds are birds belonging to the genus Molothrus in the family Icteridae. They are of New World origin.

The Molothrus genus contains:

Cowbirds are brood parasitic. The non-brood parasitic baywing was formerly placed in this genus; it is now classified as Agelaioides badius.


These birds eat insects, including the large numbers that may be stirred up by cattle. In order for the birds to remain mobile and stay with the herd, they have adapted by laying their eggs in other birds' nests. The cowbird will watch for when its host lays eggs, and when the nest is left unattended, the female will come in and lay its own eggs. The female cowbird may continue to observe the nest after laying eggs. If the cowbird egg is removed, the female cowbird may destroy the host's eggs (see "Mafia hypothesis" for an explanation of this behavior).[1]


  1. ^ Jeffrey P. Hoover; Scott K. Robinson (13 March 2007). "Retaliatory mafia behavior by a parasitic cowbird favors host acceptance of parasitic eggs". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 26 August 2009. 

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