Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Coccyzus americanus
Yellow-billed Cuckoo specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

More often heard than seen, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (11-13 inches) is most easily separated from the similar Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) by its reddish-brown wing patches, white-and-black under-tail pattern, and the yellow on its bill. Other field marks include a long tail, thin body, and black legs. Male and female Yellow-billed Cuckoos are similar at all seasons. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo breeds across much of the eastern U.S. and southern Canada. Smaller numbers breed west of the Great Plains, in Mexico, and in the West Indies. All Yellow-billed Cuckoos spend the winter in South America. Yellow-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 Yellow-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 Yellow-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. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are primarily active during the day, but like many migratory birds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Common summer resident from the beginning of May to early October. Begins nesting in late May in open forests and wood margins. Sexes are alike.

Specimen Information

The male is on the lower left, the female is on the upper right.
Date:  5/22/1882
Collected By:  George Marshall
Locality:  Laurel, MD
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  86498
Date:  7/4/1888
Collected By:  EM Hasbrouck
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  153365

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC55760 Coccyzus americanus (Yellow-billed Cuckoo)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC58493 Coccyzus americanus (Yellow-billed Cuckoo)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC62786 Coccyzus americanus (Yellow-billed Cuckoo)