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jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Blackbirds 5

Length of Segment: 00:01:15

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Among blackbirds are some known as ‘brood parasites.’ These build no nest and raise no young. They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and depend on them to raise their young for them. Among these brood parasites in Florida is the brown-headed cowbird. The male brown-headed cowbird is shiny black and as his name suggests, he has a brown head. Females are an inconspicuous mousy gray-brown. Anonymity is their game, and they're good at it. A female cowbird slips one egg into each of five or six different nests and if the egg goes unnoticed, the host will raise the cowbird baby often instead of its own. Cowbird eggs usually hatch before the other eggs in a nest. That means the cowbird baby gets a head-start, and get most of the food; the other nestlings often starve. The brown-headed cowbird has not always been in Florida. It was a bird of the Great Plains that moved east as humans cleared forests and introduced cattle. It was once known as the 'buffalo bird' because of its association with bison, feeding on seeds that passed through its digestive tract. Now it often feeds on undigested seeds that pass through cattle.

'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.

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