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Shiny Cowbird

Molothrus bonariensis

Length: 7.5 inches Wingspan: 11 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Males glossy black overall.  Females a warm brown and plain.

Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensisThe Shiny Cowbird is a very recent arrival to North America.  They first spread from South America to the Caribbean, quickly expanding their range and occupying many Caribbean islands.  The first time a Shiny Cowbird was seen in the United States was 1985, when a lone male was found in Florida.  Since then, they have become permanent breeding residents in Florida.  They have also been found in widely scattered locations in the U.S. since 1985, from Maine to Texas. It is thought that removal of forests on Caribbean islands aided the spread of the species, given that they strongly prefer open habitats.

Habitat: Found in a variety of open habitats in the U.S. mostly near the coastline.  In the core of their tropical range, they are found in nearly any kind of open or semi-open habitat.

Diet: Feeds on both insects and seeds, with diet dependent upon season and location.

Behavior: Forages by walking on the ground in open habitats, usually in small groups, often mixed with other blackbird species. 

Nesting: The Shiny Cowbird is a brood parasite, like other cowbird species.  The female will lay eggs in the nests of many other species, and typically will puncture the eggs of the host species.

Song: The song of a Shiny Cowbird is a series of high-pitched, squeaky notes that accelerates and descends in pitch before ending with one to three kwit notes.

Migration: In the tropics, Shiny Cowbirds are mostly considered permanent residents.  Most in North America are also likely permanent residents, but given the short time the species has been found here, migration patterns are poorly understood. There are some indications that some birds move from the Caribbean to southern Florida in the spring.  Birds in the northern part of their U.S. range may also move southward in the fall.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Shiny Cowbird sightings

Similar Species: Similar to Brown-headed Cowbird, Bronzed Cowbird

Feeders: Will attend feeders for various seeds.

Conservation Status: Populations of the Shiny Cowbird are increasing, and they are expanding in range.  The IUCN lists the Shiny Cowbird as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) WhatBird - Shiny Cowbird

2) North American Invasion Pattern of the Shiny Cowbird

3) Cornell's All About Birds - Shiny Cowbird

Photo Information: Photo taken by Dario Sanches - August 31st, 2007 - Jardim Botanico de Sao Paulo - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Shiny Cowbird - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Shiny Cowbird Photos (coming soon!!)