Anima-Toons: Cowbird Cradle


Did you know that there’s a bird that’s considered to be a parasite? Sounds a little out there right? Well meet the brown-headed cowbird, a brood parasite. In layman’s terms this means that the female cowbird will find other species’ nests and damage one of the eggs to replace it with her own. The other species’ mother will raise the cowbird chick without ever even knowing, and these large cowbird hatchlings will often eat more of the resources even further harming the brood.

One question you might have then, is if these cowbirds are raised as a different species, how will they ever know what they truly are? It lies in a secret passcode that all cowbirds innately know! An adult cowbird’s “chatter call” will activate the song-learning portion of the baby cowbird’s brain and allow them to identify their own species and remember other important calls and songs. Chicks as young as six days old can recognize the call of an adult cowbird.

So here’s an ode to the Robin mother unknowingly raising a chick that was never hers only for him to leave once he’s hit with the secret cowbird password.



Lindsay is a undergraduate Computational Media student at Georgia Tech. She loves reviewing the history of medicine and science and making connections to the present-day. In her free time, she loves drawing cartoons and painting.