Yellow Labs and Brown-Headed Cowbirds

March 18th, 2009

The young pup is almost two and half years old now- a big, strong yellow labrador with a heart of gold.  I know everyone thinks their dogs and pets are pretty special, but I swear this furry guy is unlike any animal I’ve ever known.  I’m thinking about having a round of tests performed on him to consider breeding.  He’s not a show dog or champion field trialer, but he has good lineage and beautiful form.  His personality is amazing in so many ways, and if he could contribute to the breed I think that would be a good thing.   Have you hugged your dog today?  More importantly, how about your kids?!  For some folks they’re the same…

Yellow Labrador Retriever in a field of Bluestem

Interesting that you can actually clone your dog these days for the princely sum of $150,000 dollars.  Can you imagine?   Perhaps if money was no object someone could consider that, but it seems, well… ethically selfish to me I guess, among other things.  It’s a free country, but you can help an awful lot of people with that kind of money.  I do understand loving an animal that much, but it’s hard to rationalize spending so much money for that purpose.  Of course I  say that, but based on how I feel about my own lab-  if it didn’t cost very much I might consider getting another pup just like him too.  Heck, twenty or thirty years from now who knows what we’ll be able to do.   For now I just appreciate that he gets to be part of our family. 

Don’t you just want to give him a big hug?!



Maybe I should’ve titled this ‘The Dogs We Love and the Birds We Don’t” or “Cute Dogs and Ugly Birds.”  On a different note it’s about time to take the bird feeders down, and as if on cue the Brown-headed Cowbirds showed up for a party to pick through what was left.  Okay, maybe they’re not ugly, but they sure act that way.  Research has shown that they can impact songbird populations negatively through brood parasitism.  They’re the only species in our region that sneaks into other birds’ nests and lays their own eggs.  So a hapless goldfinch or flycatcher ends up feeding and raising a cowbird usually instead of their own young since the cowbird is bigger and has a voracious appetite.  

Well over a hundred species of birds end up raising cowbirds in this manner and there’s quite a debate regarding how destructive or natural this is.    We typically see them grouped up in spring while they migrate through in flocks.  Soon they disperse to look for a host nest, and we only see or hear them as solitary birds.  What a strange critter and survival mechanism- kind of looks like an unruly mob!


7 Responses to “Yellow Labs and Brown-Headed Cowbirds”

  1. Before I got married, I had a Malmut-Alsatian mix which the EMBLOS hated. It wound up getting hit, and she vowed never to have another dog. Imagine my surprise when she recently announced a desire for pup — so long as it was a yellow lab. Her New Jersey relatives had one and she fell in love with it. I’m going to print this post and give it to her.

    As for cowbirds and crows, my county use to have a bounty of a nickle on them. My dad told me that instead of shooting them with a BB gun, his buddies would soak corn in moonshine and then set it our for the birds. They’d eat the corn, get drunk and pass out, at which point, the boys would toss ’em in a sack and take them to a collection point. The birds would be counted and bounty paid, after which, the birds would be thrown on the dump, only to sober up and fly away. The process would be repeated until, I suppose, the birds died of liver disease.


  2. Don’t cuckoos also practice brood parasitism?

    Our new puppy is by no means a lab. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a dog that wanted to be hugged. Maybe a border collie . . .

  3. I had a golden retriever/yellow lab mix dog named Ted that I loved with all my heart. Yes with lots of money I could get him cloned but with all the money in the world, I still wouldn’t for one reason. It is the same principle as when my wife left for a month to go to the Philippines. Suddenly I could have a nice juicy cheeseburger every night and for a few days, that was nice. But eventually that cheeseburger looked less juicy and nice the more of them I ate.

    Part of the reason I loved Ted so much was that he was only in my life for seven short years.

  4. pamela

    Think how disappointing a clone would be- even with the same physical chemistry, the dog wouldn’t have the same personality. I guess I’ll have to spend my spare $150,000 on something else.
    I’m off to hug my dogs, since all children live out of town.

  5. R.- That must have been hard to lose a dog that way. I thought I would offer the scoop (and there’s lots of that…:) about the lab, at least this one. You can’t help but love a dog like this-he’s a big dog and I swear he thinks he’s a person, and sees right through me. He is very trainable, but needs a daily routine and exercise, and loves to retrieve and bring things to you- like stuffed animals for example. They do like to chew, mostly the first 18 months- but we still go through big foot long rawhides weekly now.
    He’s coming into his own after 2 years, and is so much more relaxed however. Honestly though he never was crazy like the Marley and Me lab. But daily training when young has paid off with predictable and sound behavior. He’s not service dog calm yet, but could have been with more training. He knows how to tell you things he needs and has a built in clock for when the boy comes home on the school bus. If I lose track of time, he huffs and gets my attention until I realize it’s time and he wants to run through the field while waiting for the bus.
    Above all he’s gentle, and while one must respect his 90 pound exhuberance, he has never once, ever in his entire life, growled or showed aggression- even with two other dogs here. He’s like a big, goofy, nice kid whose feelings get hurt if someone isn’t nice to him. The boy climbs all over him and they wrestle on the carpet- they both live for that. He’s also not a watch dog by any means, and in 2 1/2 years has barked less than a dozen single times… unless I forget to feed him or let him out by 6 am- then it’s a single “Roowwf!” and like a snooze alarm he’ll do it again in 5 minutes. But he will huff, whine quietly, and stand erect and then turn and look at you if something isn’t right. And they’re going to shed, pretty much all the time- just got to know that going into it.
    Funny story about the cowbirds! Never would imagine there was a program to pay for them, but that was pretty ingenious for the time.
    Pablo- Cuckoos… I think you’re right, but not in North America as far as I know. Aren’t they overseas somewhere? By the way, I watched a few of Queequeg’s videos on Yahoo- my favorite is the one with the golf ball! He looks pretty darn huggable, and I think there are some definite advantages to a dog that size- I can think of two: one at the front going in, and the other at the back going out! :)
    For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the really cute Queequeg video link.
    Ed- Good point, nothing is ever really the same anyway, why try to duplicate something so amazing? I still understand the desire, but most of us have a pet like that in our memories- mine was Samantha, growing up- but that’s another story!
    Pamela- I guess that’s it exactly too. Wouldn’t that be weird anyway? I’d probably confuse myself… :) Interesting to see how the “nature versus nurture” debate would come out of raising a dog like that.

  6. Good post, Beau. And that’s a mighty fine looking dog you got there. We had a golden lab when I was in Jr. High and High School–a great dog that one day came up missing. We never found her and think she may have been stolen as their were a number of labs missing at the same time.

    Randall, you’re story about the bird bounty is a classic, it sounds like something Garrison Keillor would tell.

  7. Sage- That’s a really tough way to lose a pet too- before having this dog I never seriously realized that dogs are stolen like a lot of other things. I’ve heard stories like yours from many people when they meet this one. Thanks for your thoughts-

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