Black-billed Cuckoo

Coccyzus erythropthalmus
A Black-billed Cuckoo specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

More often heard than seen, the Black-billed Cuckoo (11-12 inches) is most easily separated from the similar Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) by its solid brown wings, plain under-tail pattern, and all-black bill. Other field marks include a long tail, thin body, and black legs. Male and female Black-billed Cuckoos are similar at all seasons. The Black-billed Cuckoo breeds across much of the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada. All Black-billed Cuckoos spend the winter in South America, although this species’ winter range is poorly known due to its highly secretive nature. Some Black-billed Cuckoos have been found in the western U.S. during the fall migration, likely resulting from navigational errors. Black-billed Cuckoos breed in forests with plentiful undergrowth and clearings, particularly those near water. On migration, this species may be found in habitat similar to that inhabited during the summer months. Wintering Black-billed Cuckoos inhabit humid tropical forest. The diet of this species is composed primarily of large insects, including grasshoppers, cicadas, and caterpillars. Like many cuckoos, the Black-billed Cuckoo spends much of its time hidden in thick vegetation, where it is not easily seen. Lucky birdwatchers may observe this species slinking through the branches of tall trees while foraging for insect prey. Black-billed Cuckoos are primarily active during the day, but like many migratory birds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Fairly common migrant, nesting mostly to the north of here, and rare summer resident, early May to late September. Breeds in open forests and wood margins, early May to late July. Sexes are alike.

Specimen Information

Date:  5/25/1890
Collected By:  EM Hasbrouck
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  153366

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species