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Species Description

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Coccyzus americanus

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Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Cuculiformes
Family: Cuculidae


Brownish above and white below; with rusty colored flight feathers. The upper mandible of the bill is black and the lower mandible is yellow. The under side of the tail has pairs of large white spots. 31 cm (12 in) in length.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-April, peaks in May (south) and June-July (north), and extends through mid-September. Nesting habitat is woodlands with a dense understory. The male and female build the nest out of twigs and sticks. The nest is commonly 1-2.5 m (4-8 feet) high in vines or tangles of a small tree or shrub. The female lays 1-8 (usually 4) eggs that the adults incubate for 9-11 days. The young are altricial and remain in the nest for 7-8 days after hatching. Both adults care for the young until they fledge and for a short period afterwards.

Natural History

Wooded habitats are most commonly frequented by this bird. Its diet consists of insects, frogs, lizards, and fruits. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is one of the few birds that eat many hairy caterpillars like Tent Caterpillars or Gypsy Moth larvae. It catches its food by hopping and flying among the leaves and waiting to pick up something tasty. This species is migratory.


Yellow-billed Cuckoo Region Map The Yellow-billed Cuckoo occurs during the breeding season in most areas of the United States except the northeastern and north-central states (from Washington to North Dakota). In the Southeast, this cuckoo is common except in the Appalachians and peninsular Florida. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a long distant migrant, spending its winter in South America.

Conservation Status

This species is declining in most of its range, but is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in the Southeast

Similar Species

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo may be confused with the Black-billed Cuckoo. The Black-billed Cuckoo has a black bill, smaller white spots on the tail, and a red eye. The Mangrove Cuckoo, another similar species, is buff-colored underneath and has a black eye stripe.