The Brown-headed Cowbird is an obligate brood parasite; it lays its eggs in the nests of other small passerines (perching birds), particularly those that build cup-like nests. The brown-headed cowbird eggs have been documented in nests of at least 220 host species, including hummingbirds and raptors. The young cowbird is fed by the host parents at the expense of their own young. Brown-headed cowbird females can lay 36 eggs in a season. More than 140 different species of birds are known to have raised young cowbirds.
Purple Martins are sexually dimorphic. Adult males are entirely black with glossy steel blue sheen, the only swallow in North America with such coloration. Adult females are dark on top with some steel blue sheen, and lighter underparts. Adults have a slightly forked tail. Both male and female purple martins exhibit delayed plumage maturation, meaning it takes them two years before they acquire full adult plumage. Subadult females look similar to adult females minus the steel blue sheen and browner on the back. Subadult males look very much like females, but solid black feathers emerge on their chest in a blotchy, random pattern as they molt to their adult plumage.