Yellow-billed CuckooCoccyzus americanus

adult
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult
Garth McElroy/VIREO
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Description

10 1/2-12 1/2" (27-32 cm). Jay-sized. A slender, long-tailed bird, brown above and white below, with large white spots on underside of tail and a flash of rufous in wings. Bill slightly curved, with yellow lower mandible. Black-billed Cuckoo similar, but has very little rufous in wings and smaller white spots on tail.

Voice

A rapid, harsh, rattling ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-kow-kow-kowp, kowp, kowp, kowp, slowing down at the end.

Listen

coo song
c-c-c-kowlp outbursts (3 examples)
coo song

Habitat

Moist thickets, willows, overgrown pastures, and orchards.

Range

Breeds from central California, Minnesota, and southern New Brunswick southward. Winters in South America.

Discussion

This bird's tendency to utter its distinctive call at the approach of a storm has earned it the name "Rain Crow." Both the Yellow-billed and Black-billed cuckoos are fond of hairy caterpillars, and during outbreaks of tent caterpillars are valuable in helping to keep these creatures in check. Usually shy and elusive, these birds are easy to overlook.

Nesting

2-4 pale blue-green eggs in a flimsy saucer of twigs placed in a bush or small sapling.

Similar Species

adult

Brown Thrasher

11 1/2" (29 cm). Rufous-brown above, white below with dark brown streaks. Curved bill, long tail; yellow eye. See Long-billed Thrasher.

adult

Black-billed Cuckoo

12" (30 cm). Very similar to Yellow-billed Cuckoo; brown above, white below, but bill entirely black, wings brown, much less white at tips of tail feathers. Narrow red eye ring.

adult

Mangrove Cuckoo

12" (30 cm). Brown above, rich buff or tawny below, with black facial mask; curved bill. Tail long and graduated, with black-and-white spots at tip.

Vireo

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