Birder’s Notebook; Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Birder’s Notebook by Bob Andrini, 7 May Entry: We have seen/heard more yellow-billed cuckoo’s this spring than in the past. The yellow-billed cuckoo was called the ‘Rain Crow’ since their calls could be heard before rains started. The scientific name of this cuckoo is Coccyzus americanus – the genus name Coccyzus comes from the Greek meaning to call ‘cuckoo’, the species americanus from its natural range.

These birds are usually found in the understory and edges of the forest. They may lay their eggs in nests of other cuckoo’s or even other birds (Northern cardinal, cedar waxwing and mourning dove) – but they typically lay their eggs in their own nest.

There are two species of cuckoos that we might see – the yellow-billed and black-billed. The scientific name for the black-billed cuckoo is Coccyzus erythropthalmusCoccyzus (from before) and erythropthalmuserythros referring to red: and ophthalmos (eye -reference to the red eye ring).

For food, both species love hairy caterpillars and cicadas. When there is an outbreak of the tent caterpillars, these birds are in their glory.

The call of the yellow-billed cuckoo (no it does not say ‘cuckoo-cuckoo’ like the clock), but a series of loud kuks (slowing down near the end of the call). The call of the black-billed is a series of fast, repeated cu-cu-cu.

TRIVIA: A group of cuckoos can be called an ‘asylum’ of cuckoos.

Black-billed Cuckoo photo by Bob Andrini

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