The Brown-headed Cowbird is known to use the nests of more than 200 other bird species, and cowbirds in general are believed to play a role in the decline of some migratory songbird populations. These brood parasites—birds that lay their eggs in the nests of others—have long flourished in North America.
In this timely book, Catherine Ortega summarizes and synthesizes a wealth of information on cowbirds from around the world that has appeared since the publication of Herbert Friedmann's classic 1929 monograph on these birds. Most of this information has appeared in the last quarter-century and reflects advances in our understanding of how brood parasitism influences, and is influenced by, host species. Ortega shows that in order to manage cowbirds without further damaging delicate balances in host-parasite relationships, it is necessary to understand such factors as behavior, reproduction, population dynamics, and response to landscape patterns. She examines and explains the origin, evolution, and costs of brood parasitism, and she discusses the philosophical and ecological considerations regarding the management of cowbirds—a controversial issue because of their perceived influence on threatened and endangered birds.
Because brood parasitism has evolved independently in various bird families, information on this adaptive strategy is of great ecological interest and considerable value to wildlife management. Cowbirds and Other Brood Parasites is an important reference on these creatures that enhances our understanding of both their behavior and their part in the natural world.