24 June 2017 Rockport, Maine, USA 

Posts Tagged ‘brown-headed cowbird’


Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
Cowbird fledgling begging for food from Eastern Phoebe, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 22 June 2017.

Brown-headed Cowbird fledgling begging for food from Eastern Phoebe.

I’m embarrassed to confess I goofed here up a week or two ago when I posted a photo of an “Eastern Phoebe” fledgling. Only today—when I saw what must’ve been the same bird being fed nearby by a frantic adult phoebe—did I realize my mistake. It was a cowbird.

Brown-headed Cowbirds are of course brood parasites: rather than build nests of their own, the females lay eggs in the nests of other birds, often dumping out their egg sin the process. I remember years ago spying a tiny wood-warbler flitting frantically around for food to stuff in the maw of a much larger cowbird fledgling.

I missed the ID when I spotted a chick flutter out of a phoebe’s nest for the first time. I recall thinking it rather odd-looking, but I guess I was too wrapped up in the moment, fixated on getting photos, to notice obvious field marks.

Well, today it was quite obvious. I felt kinda sorry for the phoebe.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 9 a.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. Ovenbird (v)
2. Red-eyed Vireo (v)
3. American Redstart** (v)
4. Common Yellowthroat (v)
5. Black-and-white Warbler
6. American Robin*
7. Eastern Phoebe
8. Black-capped Chickadee (v)
9. American Goldfinch
10. Yellow Warbler (v)
11. Chipping Sparrow* (v)
12. Eastern Towhee
13. Song Sparrow
14. Gray Catbird*
15. Blue Jay (v)
16. Savannah Sparrow
17. Tree Swallow
18. Chestnut-sided Warbler (v)
19. American Crow
20. Broad-winged Hawk
21. Purple Finch (v)
22. Hermit Thrush (v)
23. Veery (v)
24. Brown-headed Cowbird


25. Herring Gull

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere


Bird Brains

Friday, June 2nd, 2017
Yellow Warbler, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 02 June 2017.

Yellow Warbler.

While walking in the woods today, listening to the songs of Eastern Wood-pewees, I got to thinking about bird brains.

If you haven’t heard a pewee sing, you’re missing out. The song is wistful, pensive, slow, intermittent, and takes a good while to complete. It begins with a slurred “Pee-oh-wee”—and the pause that follows makes you think, Simple enough. Then after ten or fifteen seconds, you hear a second “Pee-oh-wee!” just like the first. Well, that’s the song, you think. That’s the sum of it. But no. Although what follows another 10 or 15 seconds later is a third call like the first two, but after the third pause, you hear: “Peee-ohh!”

This bird has a lazy, languid, four-part song that lasts a good 40 or 45 seconds.

Somehow it keeps track. Something about this bird’s brain causes it to stretch out its delivery, to hint at false assurances before revealing a final surprise.

Ospreys building a nest atop the Rockland Fire Station, 02 June 2017.

Ospreys building a nest atop the Rockland Fire Station.

Every creature experiences life differently. Dogs smell the world as we cannot. Bats echolocate. Octopi are astonishingly intelligent but experience a wholly different reality. And birds have magnets in their heads—or GPS devices (or somesuch) that let them geolocate with impressive precision.

But it’s the songs of birds that most fascinate me, that make me think about their brains. Many (most?) sing more than one tune—like today’s Chestnut-sided Warblers, alternately singing Type 1 and Type 2 songs. The voices of Savannah Sparrows and Black-billed Cuckoos seem so soft and subtle and tenuous but cover impressively great distances.

Birdsong. So varied and complex. I wonder if the human brain is even capable of decoding the cipher.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 7:45 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Wild Turkey (v)
2. Red-eyed Vireo**
3. Ovenbird
4. Black-throated Green Warbler (v)
5. Chestnut-sided Warbler**
6. Common Yellowthroat (v)
7. Brown-headed Cowbird (v)
8. Northern Cardinal** (v)
9. Eastern Towhee
10. American Redstart (v)
11. Scarlet Tanager (v)
12. Pileated Woodpecker (drumming)
13. Blue Jay** (v)
14. Alder Flycatcher
15. Black-capped Chickadee
16. White-breasted Nuthatch (v)
17. Gray Catbird*
18. Song Sparrow
19. Yellow Warbler**
20. American Goldfinch (v)
21. Tree Swallow
22. Red-tailed Hawk
23. Eastern Phoebe*
24. Savannah Sparrow
25. Field Sparrow (v)
26. Chipping Sparrow* (v)
27. American Robin*
28. Hermit Thrush (v)
29. Eastern Wood-pewee


30. House Finch (v)
31. Mourning Dove (v)
32. European Starling
33. Osprey

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere



Thursday, May 25th, 2017
Common Yellowthroat, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 25 May 2017.

Common Yellowthroat.

While slowly ascending the upper Woods Trail at Beech Hill this overcast morning, looking for birds, Jack stopped abruptly, raised his head, and stared up into the trees, ears high. I’ve learned to pay attention to such alert behavior, and I thought, “Deer?” I peered in the direction he was looking and heard the sound of something large moving over last fall’s leaves.

Then I saw it—a deer. No, not a deer, a coyote! I big one, too, bounding away.

Jack never made a peep. Nor did I.

Nor did the coyote.

Beech Hill List

Beginning at 8:15 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Red-eyed Vireo (v)
2. Eastern Phoebe**
3. Ovenbird
4. Black-and-white Warbler**
5. Hermit Thrush
6. Chestnut-sided Warbler
7. Veery (v)
8. Eastern Towhee
9. Black-capped Chickadee
10. Gray Catbird*
11. Tufted Titmouse (v)
12. Mourning Dove
13. Yellow Warbler**
14. Alder Flycatcher (v)
15. Black-throated Green Warbler (v)
16. Nashville Warbler (v)
17. Scarlet Tanager (v)
18. American Crow*
19. American Goldfinch* (v)
20. Common Yellowthroat
21. Song Sparrow
22. Tree Swallow
23. Eastern Bluebird
24. Northern Cardinal (v)
25. American Robin* (v)
26. Blue Jay** (v)


27. Chipping Sparrow
28. European Starling
29. Brown-headed Cowbird
30. Herring Gull
31. Rock Pigeon
32. Osprey
33. House Finch
34. House Sparrow (v)

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
*Voice only elsewhere


Bird Report is an intermittent record of what's outside my window in Rockport, Maine, USA (44°08'N latitude, 69°06'W longitude), and vicinity. —Brian Willson

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