The Brown-headed Cowbird is a stocky blackbird. It has a thick head and in flight the tail looks shorter. Male Brown-headed Cowbirds have glossy black plumage and a rich brown head that often looks black in poor lighting or at distance. Female Brown-headed Cowbirds are brown - grey birds, lightest on the head and underparts, with fine streaking on the belly and a dark eye. The total length is 16-22cm and the average wingspan is 36cm(14in). Body mass can range from 30 to 60 g.

Habitat and Distribution

They occur in open or semi-open country and often travel in flocks, sometimes mixed with Red-winged Blackbirds (in spring) and Bobolinks ( in fall), as well as Common Grackles or European Starlings. These birds occur in temperate to subtropical North America. In winter northern birds migrate to southern United States and Mexico.


These birds forage on the ground, often following grazing animals such as horses and cows to catch insects stirred up by the larger animals. They mainly eat seeds and insects.


The Brown-headed Cowbird lays its eggs in the nests of other small passerines (perching birds), particularly those that build cup-like nests. The female can lay 36 eggs in a season.

Calls and Songs

Song: described as flowing and gurgling. Call: chatter-like clicks and whistles.