Cowbird befriending an Oropendola

Giant Cowbirds are frequently seen around the colony of Crested Oropendola attempting to lay their eggs in the latter’s nest. The Oropendola will -unknowingly- often incubate and raise the Cowbird’s chick as their own. This behaviour is referred to as Brood Parasitism. During my reconnaissance at a nesting site, a unique behaviour was observed between these two species.

In this photo we see a male Giant Cowbird being preened by a female Crested Oropendola. Mark Hulme suggested that it might be a Cowbird chick raised to adulthood by the oropendola or an adult that is -for whatever reason- wooing an oropendola. Faraaz Abdool indicated that cowbirds feed on botflies which leads to them preening the young oropendolas. Maybe this oropendola grew up alongside the cowbird and was returning the favour?

My deduction is that the adult male Cowbird might be getting friendly with the female Oropendola via deception in order to distract her from the nest so that a female Cowbird can get easier access to lay her egg. This photo depicts a fascinating event in the ongoing saga in bird behaviour of these two species.

Author: Rishi Goordial