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Help!! Brown headed cow birds in my martin boxes...


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#1 CarieBear

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 02:13 PM

I have two martin houses in my backyard, and brown headed cow birds are going in them all the time. I have no clue on what to do about this, and i dont want them to lay there eggs in the nests!!

#2 Platypus

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 03:15 PM

I don't think you can stop brood parasitism without killing the birds. So I think you're going to just have to let nature take its course!

#3 zoutedrop

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 09:01 PM

I have two martin houses in my backyard, and brown headed cow birds are going in them all the time. I have no clue on what to do about this, and i dont want them to lay there eggs in the nests!!


I agree that a person cannot stop brood parasitism, but certainly can stop what is taking place in a single nest box. Simply removing the BHCO eggs when found isn't "killing the birds". To ensure that you don't have a repetitive process (remove an egg, another laid), wait a few days before removing.

How would that action be any different than measures taken with House Sparrows and starlings? The threat from BHCO, HOSP and EUST are all man caused.

Matt

Latest Lifebirds: Clark's Grebe, Horned Grebe, Montezuma Quail

Best Lifebirds:

     Tufted Flycatcher (ABA code 5, 5th US record, 3rd Texas record)

     Allen's Hummingbird (1st Maricopa County record)

     Baikal Teal


#4 Platypus

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 10:13 PM

I agree that a person cannot stop brood parasitism, but certainly can stop what is taking place in a single nest box. Simply removing the BHCO eggs when found isn't "killing the birds". To ensure that you don't have a repetitive process (remove an egg, another laid), wait a few days before removing.

How would that action be any different than measures taken with House Sparrows and starlings? The threat from BHCO, HOSP and EUST are all man caused.

Sorry Matt, I didn't know you could open up and retrieve eggs from Martin boxes (I've never had one). By "killing the birds", I was jokingly imagining the OP sitting on his porch with a crossbow. I didn't think that you could just take the eggs from the boxes.

That being said, I'm confused at the HOSP/EUST comparison. I was under the impression that Brown-headed Cowbirds were native to North America, and though they've adapted well to suburban living, I don't know if I would have called the problem "man-caused". I thought intervention programs for Brown-headed Cowbirds were because of the threat their brood parasitism causes to rarer bird species rather than because of they were invasive birds like House Sparrows and European Starlings. They're also not listed on the invasive species list for North America. Any chance you could shed some light on this for me?

#5 zoutedrop

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 11:06 PM

They're also not listed on the invasive species list for North America. Any chance you could shed some light on this for me?


Hi Platypus, quoted just a part of your observation, but will address all of it. It was not my intent to group the BHCO as part of the invasive species list, but I can see how that conclusion can be made. I have to go out for a bit but will respond in more detail. My conclusion may have over reached, but hopefully the details I will be providing will support my position. The sentence that caused me to react was "let nature take its course". I have had multiple neighbors tell me that cats killing birds is simply nature. Nature today is not the same as nature 200 years ago...... what looks to be natural today is not. Back soon.

Matt

Latest Lifebirds: Clark's Grebe, Horned Grebe, Montezuma Quail

Best Lifebirds:

     Tufted Flycatcher (ABA code 5, 5th US record, 3rd Texas record)

     Allen's Hummingbird (1st Maricopa County record)

     Baikal Teal


#6 Platypus

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 11:11 PM

Hi Platypus, quoted just a part of your observation, but will address all of it. It was not my intent to group the BHCO as part of the invasive species list, but I can see how that conclusion can be made. I have to go out for a bit but will respond in more detail. My conclusion may have over reached, but hopefully the details I will be providing will support my position. The sentence that caused me to react was "let nature take its course". I have had multiple neighbors tell me that cats killing birds is simply nature. Nature today is not the same as nature 200 years ago...... what looks to be natural today is not. Back soon.

I agree completely. It was a poorly chosen phase. All I meant was that there seemed to be no other option for him (I didn't know he could open up the Martin box!) so he would just have to let it happen. I look forward to your response.

#7 zoutedrop

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 03:39 AM

Before I start, some background. When I first started birding in 2008 one of the first birds that I took notice of was my ABTO family. They are rather fearless, getting one in my workshop and another getting in the way of a focus experiment. I seem to bond quickly with my feathered neighbors. My first nest experience was an ABTO's with three of the four chicks fledged.

Posted Image

Late that year something odd happened, I saw a strange looking fledgling. It was a cowbird. Being a beginner I had no idea what I was witnessing. So started off with wiki:

Before European settlement, the Brown-headed Cowbird followed bison herds across the prairies. Their parasitic nesting behaviour complemented this nomadic lifestyle. Their numbers expanded with the clearing of forested areas and the introduction of new grazing animals by settlers across North America. Brown-headed Cowbirds are now commonly seen at suburban birdfeeders.

That bummed me out. My over generalized thinking is that if you are out of range of the grazing grounds of the bison, you have a cowbird due to human intervention.

Then this study: Cowbird parasitism and habitat degradation and loss apparently reducing ABTO numbers in recent decades (Ehrlich et al. 1988).

It turns out that cowbirds are reducing Abert's reproductive success but not themselves gaining ground due to the BHCO is smaller than the ABTO.

The error in my grouping the BHCO with the HOSP is simply where is the cowbird to go? We took away its livelihood. Here is an interesting article involving BHCO.

Enough cowbird damage is being done that there is active intervention: http://www.usbr.gov/...FL2004/Chp5.pdf

Brown-headed cowbird parasitism of Abert's towhee nests has increased in recent years, due to a shortage of suitable of suitable sized hosts and an abundance of towhee nests (Finch 1983).

Bottom line, I don't like the resulting environmental impact of the cowbird, but you have to feel for them.

Matt

Latest Lifebirds: Clark's Grebe, Horned Grebe, Montezuma Quail

Best Lifebirds:

     Tufted Flycatcher (ABA code 5, 5th US record, 3rd Texas record)

     Allen's Hummingbird (1st Maricopa County record)

     Baikal Teal


#8 Platypus

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 04:01 AM

I completely agree with everything you said. And I'm aware that it's a problem. In Ontario (close to where I went to university), there have been intervention programs in hopes it would improve the chances of the Kirtland's Warbler. My comment was just poorly phrased and simply stemmed from the fact that I didn't know one could open a Martin box. Thanks for all the info! It's really neat that Abert's Towhees were the first birds that got you involved in this fantastic pasttime. I've only seen one once when I visited Tucson!

#9 spyonabird

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 02:38 PM

I was under the impression that because Cowbirds are "native", they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Then I did a little more reading and found this...

" Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Applicable to: all migratory birds (such as ducks, geese, songbirds, gulls, shorebirds, wading birds, birds of prey) with these exceptions:
  • Three nonnative birds: the common pigeon (a.k.a. "rock dove"), house sparrow (a.k.a. "English sparrow"), and European starling
  • Game birds that don't migrate, and are managed by the DEC (such as turkey, quail, pheasant, and grouse)
  • Certain blackbirds in certain agricultural situations (see below)
This law protects all migratory birds, their feathers, nests, and eggs (with the few exceptions listed above). You may not take, possess, or transport a migratory bird without a special federal permit. Before you attempt to control a migratory bird, the landowners must obtain the 50 CFR Depredation Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This permit allows the taking of migratory birds that have become a nuisance, are destructive to public or private property, or are a threat to public health or welfare. The permit spells out the conditions under which the birds may be controlled and the methods that may be used. Permit holders may control migratory birds that are clearly shown to cause, or are about to cause, serious damage to crops, nursery stocks, or fish in hatcheries. (USDA-APHIS-WS staff can help you apply for this permit. There is a fee for the permit.)

That said, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has a special provision about blackbirds: "A federal permit shall not be required to control yellow-headed, red-winged, rusty, and Brewer's blackbirds, cowbirds, all grackles, crows, and magpies when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance..."

hmmm....
I am meeting with people from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission this week. I will pose the question to them and see what they think about the subject.
Denise


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#10 zoutedrop

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 05:57 PM

That said, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has a special provision about blackbirds: "A federal permit shall not be required to control yellow-headed, red-winged, rusty, and Brewer's blackbirds, cowbirds, all grackles, crows, and magpies when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance..."
hmmm....
I am meeting with people from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission this week. I will pose the question to them and see what they think about the subject.


That was excellent. I only assumed there was some provision as there are multiple studies regarding control of cowbirds. Thanks for the added bit of wisdom and look forward to the conversation with the Commission folks. Here are two articles involving Texas, both claim success.

http://www.tpwd.stat...w7000_0514.pdf

http://www.jstor.org...=21100797250971

Control is allowed where cowbirds are threatening populations of endangered songbirds. See Texas Law: Chapter 64.002. PROTECTION OF NONGAME BIRDS.

And this aggressive one from the Smithsonian....

http://nationalzoo.s...ult.cfm?fxsht=3

Err on the side of caution, check with your local Audubon Society regarding local regulations for controlling cowbirds.

Matt

Latest Lifebirds: Clark's Grebe, Horned Grebe, Montezuma Quail

Best Lifebirds:

     Tufted Flycatcher (ABA code 5, 5th US record, 3rd Texas record)

     Allen's Hummingbird (1st Maricopa County record)

     Baikal Teal


#11 spyonabird

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 12:52 PM

Ok, in conversation with several people from the NC wildlife commission I got the following responses.

1. If you do - don't get caught.

2. unless you SEE the act, it is very difficult to determine the species. Even with the egg in hand and taking measurements. (this was the bird banders response).

3. Since this is a federal issue, it is best to get a permit to be safe

Not sure if I know any more than I did a week ago...
Denise


"There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud."
Carl Sandburg

#12 JimBob

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 01:05 PM

Really like all the info I've gained from this. Especially what spyonabird has said.

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