Giant Cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Icteridae
  • Polytypic: 2 subspecies
  • Authors: Peter E. Lowther


  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Giant Cowbird
eBird range map for Giant Cowbird

Generated from eBird observations (Year-Round, 1900-present)

Distribution in the Americas

From Veracruz, northern Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas and southern Quintana Roo (Peters 1913) south on Gulf-Caribbean slope of Central America to Honduras, in Nicaragua (both slopes), Costa Rica (Caribbean slope, central plateau, and Pacific slope in Golfo Dulce region) and Panama (both slopes but more widespread on Caribbean slope); and in South America from Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago and the Guianas south, west of Andes to western Ecuador and east of Andes to eastern Peru, Bolivia, eastern Paraguay, extreme northeastern. Argentina, and central and eastern Brazil (Peters 1913, American Ornithologists' Union 1998, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Howell and Webb 1995).

The elevational distribution of the Giant Cowbird varies across its range. In Mexico, it occurs up to 750 m (Howell and Webb 1995); in Costa Rica, up to 1700 m (Stiles and Skutch 1989, Skutch 1996); up to 2200 m in Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986, Skutch 1996); to 1700 m in Venezuela (Hilty 2003); to 2000 m in Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001); and to 1200 m (locally) in Peru (Schulenberg et al. 2007).

Distribution outside the Americas

Endemic to the Americas.


Partly open situations with scattered trees, cultivated lands, second growth, open fields and plantations, usually in vicinity of colonies of oropendolas or caciques; tropical and lower subtropical zones (American Ornithologists' Union 1998).  Found to 1675 m in Costa Rica and 2135 m in Colombia (Skutch 1996).  In Ecuador, was not found above 914 m; present at banana plantations but not seen in the forest (Goodfellow 1901).  Frequent canefields, savannas, cultivated lands and golf courses; sometimes considered "rare" but evident around colonies of oropendolas (Skutch 1954).

Historical changes

First suspected in Tobago shortly before 1937 (Belcher and Smooker 1937, ffrench 1980). Reported to have become more abundant in central Costa Rica since 1900 (C. H. Lankester in Skutch 1954).

Fossil history

No information.

Recommended Citation

Lowther, P. E. (2010). Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.