Birding Report: may 3

Bronzed CowbirdHola Birding Enthusiasts,

We had seven this week or our outing, a lovely number for birding expeditions. We had been invited to Summer Ballock´s house in DeAnza. Her house abuts a cliff and high up on her patio were excellent views of Orioles, Hummingbirds and Cactus Wrens. She even has a Cactus Wren nest on her lot.

Summer also gave us a tour through an area near the Golf Course that is used by local walkers early in the morning. We saw a Greater Roadrunner, Cactus Wren, Orioles, Northern Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxia, White-winged Doves, Vermilion Flycatchers and a Mockingbird singing its heart out from a rooftop cupola. Afterwards some of us went to lunch at Ballena Blanca Brew Pub.

For my Bird of the Week, I have chosen a bird we did not see last Thursday but we have been seeing out and about. This is the Bronzed Cowbird (pictured above). This is not a bird universally loved by all. In fact, many people are very put off by its breeding and nesting habits. Maybe not so much the breeding because it does that pretty much like every bird, but the nesting is something else entirely.

Bronzed Cowbirds, like their close relative the Brown-headed Cowbird, do not actually build nests. Nor do they sit on a nest. Nor do they raise their young. They are called nest parasites. What they do is lay 8 or 10 eggs, one each usually but sometimes more, in the nests of other birds. They particularly like Oriole nests, but will also use the nests of Northern Cardinals and Mockingbirds in this area. They are counting on the nesting instincts of the other breeds to kick in and allow the egg(s) to remain and even feed the hatchling after it breaks out of the egg. Apparently, they are very successful because their conservation status is listed as “least concern.”

Bronzed Cowbird with Neck RuffWhat I find particularly interesting about the Bronzed Cowbird is its neck ruff. While we watched one the other day, it constantly was fluffing out the feathers on its neck (see photo on right). I read that this can be part of its breeding activity but the bird we were watching was not courting but just feeding along the ground (in an area frequented by cows, hence the name). I think it might also be an alarm mechanism but did not see that mentioned in the sources I looked at. This bird either lives here full time or summers here, depending on your bird guide source. My experience has been that we usually see it in spring. They have a bright red eye.

This coming week, we are going to a new place north of La Manga. I have visited it twice this week and both times saw the lovely Western Tanager, which has a very good chance of being my next Bird of the Week.

All are welcome. We meet at 8:00am at the Esterito Cafe at the end of Bahía San Carlos. Bring chairs if you can because this new place is best for sitting and letting the birds come to us (really they are coming to the water near which we will be sitting.)

As always, you may contact me at [email protected] if you have questions.

by Mary Tannehill

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