Yellow billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)

 Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Cuculiformes Cuculidae Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)

[order] Cuculiformes | [family] Cuculidae | [latin] Coccyzus americanus | [UK] Yellow-billed Cuckoo | [FR] Coulicou à bec jaune | [DE] Gelbschnabelkuckuck | [ES] Cuclillo Piquigualdo | [IT] Cuculo americano | [NL] Geelsnavelkoekoek

Physical charateristics

Yellow-billed cuckoos are medium birds (26 to 30 cm long; 55 to 65 g) 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. The bill of yellow-billed cuckoos is short to medium in length and curved downward with a black upper mandible and a yellow or orange lower mandible. Yellow-billed cuckoos have zygodactylous feet, meaning that of the four toes, the middle two point forward and the outer two point backward. Female yellow-billed cuckoos 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.

wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
size min.: 26 cm size max.: 30 cm
incubation min.: 9 days incubation max.: 11 days
fledging min.: 21 days fledging max.: 23 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Yellow-billed cuckoos are found in the Nearctic and Neotropical regions. They breed throughout eastern North America, in southeast Canada, northern Mexico and the Greater Antilles. They winter primarily in South America (Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina).

Listen to the sound of Yellow-billed Cuckoo

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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, successional shrubland and dense thickets. In winter, yellow-billed cuckoos can be found in tropical habitats with similar structure, such as scrub forest and mangroves

Foraging habits

Yellow-billed cuckoos primarily eat large insects including caterpillars (order Lepidoptera), katydids, cicadas (family Cicadidae), grasshoppers and crickets (order Orthoptera). They also occasionally eat bird eggs, snails, small vertebrates such as frogs (Order Anura) and lizards (suborder Sauria) and some fruits and seeds. Parents feed their chicks regurgitated insects

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Breeding habits

Yellow-billed cuckoos are probably monogamous, though their breeding system has not been well studied. Breeding pairs form in May or June, and pairs may visit prospective nest sites together before choosing a location. Males may attempt to procure or keep a mate by offering sticks and other nest materials to their mate as well as feeding them. Yellow-billed cuckoos begin breeding in mid- to late-May. Most populations breed once per year, though some eastern populations may raise two broods in one breeding season. The male and female build the nest, which is made of twigs, lined with roots and dried leaves, and rimmed with pine needles. The female may begin laying eggs before nest construction is complete. She lays 1 to 5 (usually 2 or 3) light blue eggs, and begins incubating after the first egg is laid. Incubation is done by both parents, and lasts 9 to 11 days.Yellow-billed cuckoo chicks are altricial at hatching, and are brooded often by the parents for the first week or so.
Both parents feed the chicks, which begin to leave the nest 7 to 9 days after hatching. They begin to fly about 21 days after hatching. Soon thereafter they leave the nest for good. The male will usually take care of the first fledgling, and the female will care for the rest). There is little information available on when yellow-billed cuckoo chicks become independent from their parents. Most yellow-billed cuckoos begin breeding at age 1.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 5,300,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 9,200,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2003). Global population trends have not been quantified; there is evidence of population fluctuations (del Hoyo et al. 1997), but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. (source


Migratory, at night. Over-water flight in autumn of 2000-3000 km to West Indies, from where it moves further S, or 4000-km direct flight from breeding range to mainland of South America; also migrates overland, where records in Panama Sept-Nov and Apr. Rare in S Florida in winter; seasonal in Greater Antilles, where not seen Dec – Feb. Northbound migrants appear in Florida through May and into Jun, and possible southbound migrants appear by early Sept; in Netherlands Antilles, main autumn passage mid Oct to early Nov. Winters in South America E of Andes, from Colombia and Venezuela to Brazil ( Mato Grosso), Uruguay and N Argentina; rare in Central America, and in the Guianas occurs mainly during passage periods ( Oct, Nov, April). Remains in spring as late as early Jun in Surinam. Transatlantic vagrant in autumn to Greenland, W Europe, Morocco, Azores.

Distribution map breeding season

Yellow-billed Cuckoo range map summer


Author(s): VAL NOLAN, JR.
Abstract: This paper describes characters by which nestling ..[more]..
Source: Condor(77)3:341

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Title Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s egg in Mourning Dove’s nest
Abstract: On June 10, 1952, I found one egg of the Yellow-bi..[more]..
Source: Wilson bull. Vol. 66, No. 2

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Title Phylogeny of the cuckoo genus Coccyzus
(Aves: Cuculidae): a test of monophyly
Author(s): Janice M. Hughes
Abstract: Coccyzus comprises nine species of New World cucko..[more]..
Source: Systematics and Biodiversity 4 (4): 483-488

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Title Distribution and Status of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo
(Coccyzus americanus) in Wyoming
Author(s): Jason Bennett and Doug Keinath
Abstract: The future federal status of the Yellow-billed Cuc..[more]..
Source: Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

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