Virginia: Thousands of Brown-headed Cowbirds

Today I decided to bird some new areas. I first headed to a birding hot spot in Virginia. The location consists of two large farm fields and a quiet dead-end road in between. I got to this birding spot there and was initially disappointed because I only heard a Blue Jay and spotted some Mourning Doves. I decided to move on to the next spot. As I was heading back down the the dead-end road I saw a massive bird “cloud” moving in the sky in the field to my right. These birds were flushed from the ground by a hawk .

I figured that the birds were probably starlings. I stopped and got out my binoculars. I could see that they were not starlings and wondered if they were some sort of black bird. I couldn’t tell until they came toward where I was parked.

I watched the massive group of birds as they moved along in the field. Finally they started flying in my direction and stopped in the field and in the road next to me. I could see without binoculars that they were Brown-headed Cowbirds. I looked with my binoculars at the group in the field to see if there were any other birds mixed in. I spotted only one starling.

I was awestruck when the birds were all around my car and perched on the fence posts on both sides. They gradually moved to the field on my left.

I figured I should get a photo to prove that I saw so many cowbirds today. I was just about to get a great shot when a hawk came out of nowhere and flew into the mass of cowbirds that were in the air coming toward me. The hawk easily snagged one cowbird for his meal and flew away. The remaining cowbirds scattered. I managed to get a few photos and video with my smart phone. Unfortunately, the birds were now some distance and skittish as I tried to get closer so no good shots.

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