cow·​bird ˈkau̇-ˌbərd How to pronounce cowbird (audio)
: any of a genus (Molothrus of the family Icteridae) of New World blackbirds that lay their eggs in the nests of other birds
especially : brown-headed cowbird

Examples of cowbird in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The photo today is of a blue grosbeak nest with a cowbird egg. Taylor Piephoff, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 Since 1985 the shiny cowbird of South America has been sighted in Florida. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019 The situation has forced conservationists into the uncomfortable position of advocating cowbird extermination programs. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019 If a host parent tosses a cuckoo or cowbird egg of out its nest, the cuckoo or cowbird parent may return and destroy every other egg that bird has laid. Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 25 Apr. 2014 Some bees are cleptoparasites, sneaking into unoccupied nests to lay eggs, in the same way that cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and let the unknowing foster parents rear their chicks. Stephen Buchmann, The Conversation, 17 May 2023 Among birds, several species of cuckoo, several species of cowbird, some finches, and even some ducks slip their eggs into other birds’ nests. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 27 Mar. 2023 This includes cowbird eggs. Cori Brown,, 27 Mar. 2021 Once all the birds in the sample population had laid, the researchers went around adding and removing eggs from nests to see whether having a certain number of cowbird eggs affected mockingbird survival. Veronique Greenwood, Discover Magazine, 22 Dec. 2011 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cowbird.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1810, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cowbird was in 1810

Dictionary Entries Near cowbird

Cite this Entry

“Cowbird.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


cow·​bird -ˌbərd How to pronounce cowbird (audio)
: a small North American blackbird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds

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