Shiny CowbirdMolothrus bonariensis

adult male
Tom J. Ulrich/VIREO
adult female
Steve Mlodinow/VIREO
Shiny Cowbird
Shiny Cowbird


7-8" (18-20 cm). Male purplish black glossed with blue above, shining purplish black below. Female grayish brown, paler below. Bill large, conical, and black. Eyes dark.


Song a melodious warble. A variety of harsh metallic call notes.


Open country and farmlands.


A recent invader from West Indies. Has been recorded in a number of southeastern states.


During the 20th century, this species began to spread from South America through the West Indies, and now seems poised to add at least the southeastern states to its range. If it succeeds, it could pose an additional threat to our native songbirds, for cowbirds are brood parasites.


1-3 heavily spotted white eggs, laid in the nests of other species.

Similar Species

adult, breeding

European Starling

7 1/2-8 1/2" (19-22 cm). Smaller than a robin. A short-tailed, chunky, iridescent black bird; long pointed bill, yellow in summer and dark in fall and early winter.

adult male, breeding

Rusty Blackbird

9" (23 cm). In spring males are black, with a bluish and greenish iridescence; females are dark gray. In fall they are much more rust-brown, especially head, breast, and back.

adult male

Brewer's Blackbird

8-10" (20-25 cm). Robin-sized. Male is solid black with purplish-blue iridescent head and yellow eyes. Female is gray with dark eyes.

adult male, Eastern

Bronzed Cowbird

8 1/2" (22 cm). Male bronze-black with bluish-black wings and tail. Prominent red eye can be seen at close range. Female similar but duller.

adult male

Brown-headed Cowbird

6-8" (15-20 cm). Male black with glossy brown head; female plain gray-brown. Both have a finch-like bill.

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Boat-tailed Grackle

Males 16-17" (41-43 cm); females 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, iridescent blue on back and breast; yellow or brown eyes. Female smaller, brown with paler breast.

adult male

Great-tailed Grackle

Male, 16-17" (41-43 cm); female, 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, with iridescent purple on back and breast. Female smaller, brown with a pale breast.

adult male Coastal (Purple)

Common Grackle

12" (30 cm). Jay-sized. Long, wedge-shaped tail displaying a longitudinal ridge or keel when in flight.


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