The time of day of egg laying by the Brown-headed Cowbird and other icterines

TitleThe time of day of egg laying by the Brown-headed Cowbird and other icterines
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1991
AuthorsScott DM
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology

I present data on the time of day of oviposition for 16 species of icterines to evaluate the idea that laying exceptionally early in the morning by the brood parasite, the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), is a specialization for parasitism. This cowbird, the earliest known layer among icterines, typically lays before sunrise (sunrise - 9.14 +- 2.52 (SE) min, n = 36). Another brood parasite, the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), also sometimes lays before sunrise. The best-known nonparasitic icterine, the Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) lays shortly after sunrise. Fragmentary records show that several other icterines lay within an hour or so after sunrise. Data are inadequate to conclude that early laying by Brown-headed Cowbirds has arisen as an adaptation for parasitism. The Brown-headed Cowbird at London, Ontario, lays earlier than most local passerines, as is shown by new data on oviposition by seven host species arranged in order of increasing lateness of oviposition: Agelaius phoeniceus, Dendroica petechia, Melospiza melodia, Cardinalis cardinalis, Vireo olivaceus, Dumetella carolinensis, and Turdus migratorius.