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Yellow-billed Cuckoo

ID Info
Silhouette CuckoosCuckoos
Yellow-billed CuckooCoccyzus americanus
  • ORDER: Cuculiformes
  • FAMILY: Cuculidae

Basic Description

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are slender, long-tailed birds that manage to stay well hidden in deciduous woodlands. They usually sit stock still, even hunching their shoulders to conceal their crisp white underparts, as they hunt for large caterpillars. Bold white spots on the tail’s underside are often the most visible feature on a shaded perch. Fortunately, their drawn-out, knocking call is very distinctive. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are fairly common in the East but have become rare in the West in the last half-century.

More ID Info
image of range map for Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are fairly easy to hear but hard to spot. In summer, start by looking in areas of deciduous forest for infestations of tent caterpillars, as well as outbreaks of cicadas or other large arthropods. Listen for the species’ distinctive, knocking call, which can be given at any time, night or day. Later in summer, listen more for their dove-like cooing, as they give their knocking call much less frequently. The species is virtually silent by day during migration, so watch for their distinctive long, slim shape and rapid and fluid wingbeats as they cross over open patches below treetop level on their way from one woodlot to another. In fall, areas with fall webworm infestations often support Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Other Names

  • Cuclillo Piquigualdo (Spanish)
  • Coulicou à bec jaune (French)
  • Cool Facts