Courtsey Kenn Kaufman
The Mangrove Cuckoo inhabits coastal regions of southern Florida, south through the Caribbean islands, and on both coasts of Mexico and Central America. It may also occur sporadically in lowland areas of South America from Venezuela east to the mouth of the Amazon River.
In Florida, Mangrove Cuckoos are uncommon; they are most abundant on the south coast, upper keys, lower keys, and along the Gulf Coast to Marco Island. They are more common in coastal Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands, and rare in south Central America, north South America, and Trinidad.
Despite its name, Mangrove Cuckoos are not restricted to mangroves, but are widely distributed in many lowland habitats, occupying scrub, woodlands, and humid forests from sea level to about 1,400 meters. They are found in a broader range of habitat types on Caribbean islands than in most mainland areas. In Florida, these birds primarily reside in swamps of black mangrove (Avicennia germinans
) and red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle
), as well as in closed stands of coastal mangroves, and remote mangrove islets. They are also found in areas adjoining mangroves, including beach scrub and tropical hardwood hammocks consisting of Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia piscipula
These cuckoos forage slowly and deliberately among dense, leafy trees and shrubs, where they peer about, making short leaps to pluck insects from the vegetation. Caterpillars are a preferred food, but grasshoppers, praying mantises, moths, flies, spiders, small frogs, and berries are also eaten.
Mangrove Cuckoos require dense vegetation for breeding, such as mangroves, tropical hardwood hammocks, and thorn thickets, often over or near water. Males give a low throaty call to indicate territory and attract mates. The nest is typically built by both parents upon a horizontal branch or vertical fork of a mangrove, shrub, or small tree, usually located lower than 10 feet above the water or ground. This loose, flat platform of dry, coarse twigs may be either unlined or sparingly lined with bits of plant material. Two, or sometimes three, pale blue-green eggs are laid, which often can be seen through the bottom of the nest. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks.
Once thought to be fully migratory in Florida, winter sightings of Mangrove Cuckoos are becoming increasingly frequent throughout their Florida range. Further study of Mangrove Cuckoos wintering in Florida may indicate that the species may be non-migratory. The common idea that Florida populations are migratory may have been based on early studies that failed to locate Florida birds in fall or winter. Taped recordings of calls have since been used to locate silent winter individuals, indicating that at least a portion of the population stays in Florida all year. Current evidence for migration is weak; based solely on the occurrence in West Indies and South America of individuals with pale plumage that resemble Florida birds. However, examinations of many specimens indicate that pale forms may be found regularly among other breeding populations. Populations south of Florida apparently do not migrate.