Birding

The Best Clue for Finding Cuckoos

Check the treetops for this popular menu item and up your odds of success.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

This is BirdNote!

This staccato call tells us there’s a Yellow-billed Cuckoo nearby. One of two species of cuckoos in the woodlands of North America, the Yellow-billed lives in broadleaf forests throughout the East and riparian stands in the Southwest. They were common breeding birds in the Pacific Northwest as late as the 1920s, but then they disappeared. Ornithologists still don’t know why. 

The Black-billed Cuckoo is a more northerly species that lives in dense woodland, even conifer forests.

Cuckoos perch quietly and scan their surroundings for food. Hairy tent caterpillars, shunned by most birds, are often on their meal ticket. So, if you have an infestation of tent caterpillars, you might see one of these slender brown and white birds with long, white-spotted tails.

The cuckoo plucks a caterpillar from its tent and manipulates it back and forth in its bill, taking off many of the bothersome hairs. But some of them remain, and cuckoo stomachs are sometimes lined with these hairs. When the hairs are dense enough to prevent digestion, the entire stomach lining is cast off and regurgitated. Nature finds surprising ways to deal with problems!

For BirdNote, I'm Mary McCann.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Credits 

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo [10009] recorded by Terri Gallion; call of the Black-billed Cuckoo [8219] recorded by G.B.Reynard. Deciduous forest morning songbirds Essentials 50 recorded by Gordon Hempton and provided courtesy of QuietPlanet.com.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler  Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Written by Dennis Paulson

Narrator: Mary McCann

© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org June 2018 

ID# cuckoo-02-2013-06-13 cuckoo-02

“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”