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Molothrus oryzivorus

Giant Cowbird

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Icteridae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies

Authors: Lowther, Peter E

Molothrus oryzivorus

Pinogana, Darien, Panama; 5 February 2010 © Stephen Davies

As its common name indicates, the Giant Cowbird is a large cowbird. Indeed the Giant Cowbird dwarfs any other species of Molothrus, and at first glance may seem to have little in common with other cowbirds. Like other species of Molothrus, however, the Giant Cowbird is a brood parasite, and lays its eggs in the nest of other large-bodied birds, principally oropendolas (Psarocolius, perhaps other genera as well) and caciques (Cacicus). The male Giant Cowbird has a conspicuous ruff of feathers around the neck; this ruff may contribute to the Giant Cowbird's peculiar small-headed appearance. This species has a wide geographic range; it's distribution may be spreading higher into the Andes following deforestation, but it also may have been extirpated from some areas after the host species disappeared following the loss of their forest habitat.

Recommended Citation

Lowther, Peter E. 2010. Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website, for the distribution in Central America and/or Caribbean, and on a map provided by Robert S. Ridgely, for the South American distribution.

The data for the InforNatura maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Resident (nonmigratory)
  • Primary Habitat:Tropical lowland evergreen forest edge
  • Foraging Strata:Terrestrial
  • Foraging Behavior:---
  • Diet:Omnivorous
  • Sociality:Mixed Flocks
  • Mating System:Unknown
  • Nest Form:Nest Parasite
  • Clutch: -
  • IUCN Status:Not Evaluated