One book leads to another...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Wild, Wild Best! Y is for...

Y is for Yellow-billed Cuckoo!  Contrary to their dapper appearance, these foot-long fellas are generally shy and quite practiced at the art of disguise; remaining so still as to blend into the scenery. Though you might not always see these birds, you certainly won’t miss their rather loud, rapid staccato call that sounds at first like a call to attention with a hollow wooden tube.

From the penguin-like cape that drapes the head and shoulders, to the layers of colors beneath, to the black and yellow bill, these guys are certainly dressed in their Sunday best and not surprisingly, their feathers make up nearly half their body weight!

Enjoying summers among cottonwoods along the San Pedro River, they’re here for much of the monsoon and are sometimes called “Rain Crows” for their tendency to call at the sound of thunder.  Otherwise the Cuckoos spend their days dining on chubby caterpillars and are first in line to take advantage of any sort of cicada, moth or tent caterpillar outbreak.

The male and female build their nest together, though interestingly, they put a few of their eggs in nests of other birds! Thus, the name?  In addition, these monogamous creatures are known to have an occasional extra male hanging around the nest as a type of ‘nanny’.

As summer winds down the Cuckoos head for South America for the winter as avid birders look anxiously forward to their return because the nocturnal migratory flights of the Cuckoo are imperiled by collisions with cellphone towers, tall buildings, etc., and just last year they (Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo) were officially added to the Endangered Species List.

As we get down to the wire now, one more letter left, I have to admit to being a little research weary (though I’ve enjoyed it immensely!), and find I keep having to do a double-take on the word ‘underparts’ – ha!  Anyone else?


  1. I love all of your bird posts. I don't get nearly as many different types of birds here in Florida. I mostly see Red Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Robins in my backyard.

    1. Wow! All of the birds you mentioned are so vividly colored :-) That must be a treat!

  2. I'm wondering about why they put eggs in other nests - maybe it's an insurance policy if one batch of eggs gets eaten by a predator, they still have a few backups?

    1. Oddly, there could be as many as five days between one egg and the next (asynchronous). It may also be a safeguard against the older young nibbling on the newborns...eesh!

  3. Congrats on making it to Y! Your theme looks interesting, so I'll have to stop by again to check out your bird posts.

    Thank you so much for participating in the A to Z Challenge. Reminder: there will be an A to Z Reflections round on May 4th. There will be a Linky for it on the main blog, so please look for it there! Please post your reflections on the challenge, visit others, and catch up on the blogs you didn't have time to read!

    Team Macha, Helping Co-Host Czenge
    Maui Jungalow

    1. Thank you, Courtney! I popped over to your site and was instantly hooked :-)
      And thanks for the Linky info - I'll look for it!


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