Endangered Species in Santa Cruz County - Birds


Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Scientific Name: Coccyzus americanus

Status: C

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are medium-sized birds (26 to 30 cm or about 1 ft. in length) with long tails. They have uniform grayish-brown plumage on their head and back, and dull white underparts. Their tails are long with two rows of four to six large white circles on the underside. Their bills are short to medium in length, curved downward with a black upper mandible and a yellow or orange lower mandible. Yellow-billed cuckoos have four toes, the middle two point forward and the outer two point backward. Females are slightly larger than males. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but have a less distinct undertail pattern, and have cinnamon brown wing coverts.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos primarily eat large insects including caterpillars, katydids, cicadas, grasshoppers and crickets. They also occasionally eat bird eggs, snails, small vertebrates such as frogs and lizards, along with some fruits and seeds. Parents feed their chicks regurgitated insects.

Habitat: Yellow-billed Cuckoos prefer open woodlands with clearings and a dense shrub layer. They are often found in woodlands near streams, rivers or lakes. In North America, their preferred habitats include abandoned farmland, old fruit orchards, shrubland and dense thickets.

Predators: Adults are killed by raptors, including Aplomado falcons and red-shouldered hawks. Nestlings and eggs are vulnerable to snakes such as the black racer, small mammals such as eastern chipmunks, and birds such as blue jays and common grackles.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are host to a variety of parasites and they can often be nest parasites as well. Some parasitize other birds by laying eggs in their nests - these nests may belong to others of the same species or to black-billed cuckoos, American robins, gray catbirds or wood thrushes.

Populations have been declining in recent years due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Other threats to cuckoo populations include poisoning from pesticides and other environmental contaminants, and collision with towers and tall buildings during their nocturnal migration.

To Learn More:

  • Animal Diversity Web
    Brief easy-to-read summaries (most with photos) describing habitat, geographic range, behavior, food and current conservation status.
  • CalPhotos - University of California, Berkeley
    Enter common name of the species to access available photographs. CalPhotos is a collection of more than 169,613 photos of plants, animals, fossils, people, and landscapes from around the world.
  • NatureServe Explorer
    Enter species name to access a detailed description of habitat behavior, food, current conservation status, ecological and distribution data, with citations to relevant management reports.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    Documents describing protection for this species under the Endangered Species Act. General information about the species as well as plabns to protect it and help it to recover.

Last updated by lorenzop on May 22, 2008

Browse by Status Key

E — Endangered

T — Threatened

CH — Critical Habitat

PE — Taxa proposed for listing as endangered

PT — Taxa proposed for listing as threatened

PCH — Critical habitat which has been proposed

C — Candidate species for which the Fish and Wildlife Service has on file sufficient information on the biological vulnerability and threats to support proposals to list as endangered or threatened