Friday, April 22, 2016


Probably one of the least admired birds around, cowbirds have neither color nor character ... at least according to some observers. Female cowbirds drop their eggs in another bird's nest and jet off to the next fling. Of course, the male had long since moved on to greener pastures, so what's a girl to do?

Actually the story has little to do with character, as is almost always the case in the world of the undomesticated. 

The way some tell the story, cowbirds like a moveable feast ... seeds and insects in the coats of buffalo, cows and so on. Long before there were fences that kept the feasts in a confined area, cowbirds got used to being transported long distances away from a home nest. 

With a choice of either commuting home every night or changing their child rearing methods, they opted for change. They outsourced their nesting chores and gained a sullied reputation.

Why am I going on about cowbirds?

Several years ago I was sitting on my front porch when I heard an enchanting bird song. It was like a watery, gurgling whistle. I went searching for it and found ... a black bird. No color or beauty. Just that sound that seems to touch some part of me that isn't quite domesticated either. 

The video above will give you a sense of what the cowbird song sounds like ... and just to make things interesting, think about how the baby birds learn "their" song when they're being raised by who-knows-what birds singing who-knows-what song.

As I've been researching my new novel, Yellowstone Howling, and looking at more animal symbolism, I wondered what the symbolism would be for this less-than-admirable bird. Here's what I found at
The cowbird, like the cuckoo, deposits its eggs in other bird's nests. This totem reminds you to ask yourself: how are you dealing with abandonment? Are you paying enough attention to your parents, or children?

What about your relationship to your inner child, inner parent, and inner adult selves? Imagine a grounded, golden, triangle between the three. What does the relationship look like between the lines of communication? The first step in establishing healthy inner spaces is to say hello to what is already present.

The cowbird reminds us to take care of responsibilities and to stay grounded.
Interestingly, the character I was thinking about in relationship to cowbird was abandoned as a child and, decades later, is still working through those issues. And, while I was never actually abandoned, I know those feelings are part of my make up.

So, first, cowbird speaks to me in my front yard, and now he comes to me in fiction. I just love this stuff.