Black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)

loading
Black-billed cuckoo
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Black-billed cuckoo fact file

Black-billed cuckoo description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCuculiformes
FamilyCuculidae
GenusCoccyzus (1)

A secretive and elusive bird found in dense vegetation, the black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) is more often heard than seen, producing a rhythmic “cu-cucall to proclaim its arrival at its breeding grounds (2) (3). This species can also be heard calling shortly before rainfall, a behaviour that has led it to being given the nickname of ‘rain crow’ (2)

As its name implies, this cuckoo has a black bill. Its upperparts are greyish-brown and its underparts are pale greyish (4) (5). It can be separated from other, similar species by the bright red ring that surrounds the eye. In breeding adults, this ring may be yellowish (3) (4)

The male and female black-billed cuckoo are indistinguishable, except for the fact that the female is slightly larger than the male. Juveniles look a lot like the adults, but have a more brownish head and a yellowish eye ring. Unlike the adult, the juvenile does not show white spots on its tail, which also helps separate the juvenile black-billed cuckoo from other, similar species (3) (4).

Size
Length: 28 - 31 cm (2)
Wingspan: 34 - 40 cm (2)
Weight
40 - 65 g (2)
Top

Black-billed cuckoo biology

The black-billed cuckoo preys upon cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, fish and wild fruits and berries. It also consumes large numbers of spiny, noxious caterpillars. Often the caterpillar spines become lodged in the stomach wall, so from time to time the stomach lining is shed to get rid of them (2) (7).

Both adult black-billed cuckoos help build the nest, which is constructed from twigs and grasses and lined with leaves, pine needles, stalks, plant fibres, rootlets, mosses and spider webs. Like many other cuckoo species, the black-billed cuckoo occasionally lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. The young leave the nest at six or seven days old, and are able to fly at around two weeks of age (2) (9).

Top

Black-billed cuckoo range

The black-billed cuckoo breeds from Alberta in Canada and Montana in the United States, east to the Maritime Provinces, and south to northern Texas, Arkansas and South Carolina. A migratory species, it spends the winter in western South America. The black-billed cuckoo is a vagrant in western Europe (2) (6).

Top

Black-billed cuckoo habitat

The black-billed cuckoo is found in woodlands, groves and thickets, often near water, and with a variety of trees, bushes and vines. It is often associated with species such as aspen, poplar, birch, sugar maple, hickory, hawthorn and willow (2) (3) (7) (8).

Top

Black-billed cuckoo status

The black-billed cuckoo is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

Top

Black-billed cuckoo threats

As the black-billed cuckoo preys largely upon insects, it is vulnerable to the use of pesticides depleting its prey base. Other threats to this species include the degradation of riparian habitats by water diversion, flood control projects and ground water pumping, as well as deforestation in tropical regions. Urbanisation is a further threat, and during migration the black-billed cuckoo may collide with TV towers and tall buildings (2) (3) (10).

Top

Black-billed cuckoo conservation

As a result of its large range and large population, the black-billed cuckoo has not been the target of any specific conservation measures. However, in light of its decreasing population trend (1), a number of conservation measures have been recommended for this species. For example, maintaining a diversity of habitats that include large trees as well as hedgerows will benefit this species and its prey base. Reducing the use of chemicals and controlling undesirable pest insects and plants will also improve the quality of its habitat (2) (10).

Top

Find out more

Find out more about the black-billed cuckoo:

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
Top

Glossary

Vagrant
An individual found outside the normal range of the species.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Black-billed cuckoo (August, 2011)
    http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-billed_Cuckoo/
  3. Hughes, J.M. (2001) Black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzuserythropthalmus). In: Poole, A. (Ed.) The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
    http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/587/
  4. Kaufmann, K. (2001) Birds of North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  5. Dunn, J. and Alderfer, J.K. (2006) National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Books, Washington.
  6. Colorado Division of Wildlife - Black-billed cuckoo (August, 2011)
    http://wildlife.state.co.us/wildlifespecies/profiles/birds/blackbilledcuckoo.htm
  7. Peterson, R.T. (2010) Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  8. Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative: All Bird Plan - Black-billed cuckoo (August, 2011)
    http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/plan/species/bbcu.htm
  9. Johnsgard, P.A. (2009) Birds of the Great Plains. University of Nebraska Press, Nebraska.
  10. NatureServe Explorer (August, 2011)
    http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/
X
Close

Image credit

Black-billed cuckoo  
Black-billed cuckoo

© Anthony Mercieca / Animals Animals

Animals Animals / Earth Scenes
17 Railroad Avenue
Chatham
NY
12037
United States of America
Tel: +01 (518) 3925500
Fax: +01 (518) 3925550
info@animalsanimals.com
http://www.animalsanimals.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is found in Wisconsin's Northwoods and has been profiled with the support of a Wisconsin-based family who care deeply about the area. To learn more visit our eco-region pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog