English and Scientific names:

Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis


Number of individuals: 

1 ad. male


Locality: LOUISIANA: 


Specific Locality:

"Oak Grove Sanctuary" area near former Rutherford Motel



Date(s) when observed:

6 June 2009


Time(s) of day when observed:  

1:30 PM


Reporting observer and address:

Donna L. Dittmann & Steven W. Cardiff


Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):



Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)



Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):



Optical equipment: 

10 X 42 binoculars (DLD)


Distance to bird(s): 

40-50 ft.


Duration of observation:

3 minutes



live oaks along N side paved road near old motel site


Behavior of bird: 

The bird was singing from just below the crown of a

mature live oak.  The bird may have been attracted to a "flock," which we had agitated from pishing and squeaking: several Northern Mockingbirds and

Orchard Orioles, Common Grackles, Brown Thrasher, pair of Great Crested Flycatchers,  a female Brown-headed Cowbird. After the flock started to

disperse both SWC and DLD became aware of  an unusual song and both independently started to hone in on the source.  After the bird sang three times, DLD spotted it in the subcanopy of a live oak.  and realized that it was a Shiny Cowbird; it sang at least two more times.  DLD called to SWC, then snapped three pictures of the bird before it flew east towards the end of the chenier. It was not subsequently relocated despite an hour of searching the area.



Only DLD saw the bird: A cowbird, shiny glossy black with slender, pointed bill compared to a Bronzed Cowbird and apparent dark eye

(did not appear red at that distance at least - light was pretty good). Both DLD and SWC heard the song, which consisted of several emberizid like notes

followed by a thrill.  Neither SWC or DLD recognized it (although we had both previously heard the species sing in Peru and at Grand Isle)- wondering what kind of "sparrow-like thing" that might be.  When DLD spotted it and realized that it was a cowbird, it was an instant process of elimination because the song was completely unlike that of Brown-headed or Bronzed

cowbirds. DLD could see that the bird's plumage was shiny black (if there was any purplish irridescence, then perhaps it was not noticeable due to the

lighting and upward angle),  with sleek head (not puffed-out like a Bronzed, especially while singing) more or less resembling a Brown-headed Cowbird,

"small" pointed bill (not like the heavier bill of a Bronzed or conical bill of a Brown-headed). The bird's posture did not markedly change while the bird was singing, slightly canting its head backward so its bill was pointed more upwards; in DSC_0128 (third image) the bird had just finished singing.



5-6 liquid emberizid-like notes followed by a rapid series of notes/trill.


Similar species:

Black-colored cowbird species effectively eliminated by

song: songs of Brown-headed and Bronzed cowbirds are very different.  Bill

shape different between Shiny and both Brown-headed (stubby sparrow-like)

and Bronzed cowbirds (longer and heavier throughout) - unfortunately bill

shape is not clearly visible in the photographs nor does does the resolution

clearly show that the eye is brown.


Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Yes three digital photos (Nikon

D80 with 70-300mm lens), DLD attached.


Previous experience with this species: 

In North America, we both saw a stake-out male in

Cameron Parish on 6 June 1989; collected the first LA specimen (another

male) in Cameron Parish on 30 April 1999; plus we have also seen males a few

times in Grand Isle. We have also seen this species in Peru (but 25 years



Identification aids:

Online BNA - to see if there was a recording of the song- there wasn't.


This description is written from: 

Memory within 20 hours of observation.


Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 





Donna L. Dittmann and Steven W. Cardiff


Date and time: 

Sunday, 7 June 2009, 9 AM