Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Black-billed Cuckoo

Black-billed Cuckoo
Coccyzus erythropthalmus
Perching Birds | Family: Cuckoos, Roadrunners, Anis, Cuculidae

An estimated 22% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

Both widespread cuckoos--the Black-billed and the Yellow-billed--are adept at hiding and skulking in dense vegetation and are more often heard than seen. Their distinctive notes, repeated over and over, are reminiscent of those of grebes and doves, but deeper in tone and more repetitive. When tracked down, the birds slip away to another location and repeat the call. Cuckoos are extremely beneficial to the farmer and horticulturist, consuming enormous quantities of destructive hairy caterpillars, especially gypsy moth and tent caterpillars. They are most numerous in years of tent caterpillar infestations.

Description

12" (30 cm). Very similar to Yellow-billed Cuckoo; brown above, white below, but bill entirely black, wings brown, much less white at tips of tail feathers. Narrow red eye ring.

Voice

A series of soft mellow cu-cu-cu-cu notes in groups of 2-5, all on the same pitch.

Nesting

2-4 blue-green eggs in a flimsy shallow nest of twigs lined with grass and plant down, placed within a few feet of the ground in a dense thicket.

Habitat

Moist thickets in low overgrown pastures and orchards; also occurs in thicker undergrowth and sparse woodlands.

Range/Migration

Breeds from Alberta and Montana east to Maritime Provinces, and south to northern Texas, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Winters in South America.