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Critters of the Week

Critters of the Week

A wild critter we spotted in the RVA area and a critter up for adoption by SPCA.

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Where Spotted: Reedy Creek
Common Name: Brown-headed Cowbird
Scientific Name: Molothrus ater
Male
Length:
7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
Weight: 1.5-1.8 oz (42-50 g)
Wingspan: 14.2 in (36 cm)
Female
Length:
6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)
Weight: 1.3-1.6 oz (38-45 g)
Wingspan: 12.6-15.0 in (32-38 cm)

Cool Facts Courtesy of Cornell Labs

  • The Brown-headed Cowbird is North America’s most common “brood parasite.” A female cowbird makes no nest of her own, but instead lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds.
  • Social relationships are difficult to figure out in birds that do not build nests, but male and female Brown-headed Cowbirds are not monogamous. Genetic analyses show that males and females have several different mates within a single season.
  • Brown-headed Cowbird lay eggs in the nests of more than 220 species of birds. Recent genetic analyses have shown that most individual females specialize on one particular host species.
  • Some birds, such as the Yellow Warbler, can recognize cowbird eggs but are too small to get the eggs out of their nests. Instead, they build a new nest over the top of the old one and hope cowbirds don’t come back. Some larger species puncture or grab cowbird eggs and throw them out of the nest. But the majority of hosts don’t recognize cowbird eggs at all.
  • Cowbird eggs hatch faster than other species eggs, giving cowbird nestlings a head start in getting food from the parents. Young cowbirds also develop at a faster pace than their nest mates, and they sometimes toss out eggs and young nestlings or smother them in the bottom of the nest.
  • In winter, Brown-headed Cowbirds may join huge roosts with several blackbird species. One such mixed roost in Kentucky contained more than five million birds.
  • The oldest recorded Brown-headed Cowbird was a male, and at least 16 years 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Wisconsin.

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Wartortle at Richmond SPCA

Hi! My name is Wartortle and I’m a lovely little lady looking for a loving home. Won’t you help me? I promise that I won’t ask for much… just a lifetime of love and devotion! I can’t wait to play and cuddle with my new family. Could you be the one I’m waiting for? Please ask to meet me today!

Age: 10 years, 1 month
Gender: Spayed Female
Color: Orange
ID: 49721701

Adopt Wartortle at Richmond SPCA

Learn more about their adoption process.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.