Dr. Charles van Riper III

Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
USGS Research Scientist Emeritus  

Sonoran Desert Research Station
125 Biological Sciences East ~ University of Arizona ~Tucson, AZ 85721-125
(520) 626-7027 ~ (520) 670-5100 fax ~ (520) 491-0721 call

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   Field Identification

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) is 11-13 (28-33 cm), and known as a cuckoo by the slim sinuous look, brown back, and white underparts.  It is differentiated from other cuckoos by:

Generally, the bird is grayish brown above and white-below.  Juvenile plumage is held well into fall.  Juveniles have a paler pattern on the tail and the bill may show little or no yellow color.  This species may be confused with the Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) but the Black-billed Cuckoo lacks the rufous primaries, yellow bill, undertail markings are grey and white instead of bold black and white, and has a reddish eye ring (National Geographic Society (1987)

The Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis) is differentiated from the eastern sub-species (C. a. americanus) by a larger and thicker bill, longer wings and tails, and by a slightly more gray coloration (Ridgeway 1887; Franzreb and Laymon 1993).  

    The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is found in riparian habitat.  Song sounds hollow and wooden, a rapid staccato kut-kut-kut   or ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-kow-kow-kow that usually slows and descends to a kakakowlp-kowlp ending (Peterson (1990). 

Click Here to LISTEN to the  Yellow-billed Cuckoo


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