Black-Billed Cuckoo

Coccyzus erythropthalmus
Range Map

Black-Billed Cuckoos breed in the northeastern USA and the southern regions of central and eastern Canada. After the breeding season, these birds travel south to northwestern South America where they seek tropical rainforests, scrub forests and other woodlands.

Cuckoos specialize in eating caterpillars, and have developed an interesting strategy to deal with the noxious fur-like spines that discourage predators from taking them as prey. These spines become lodged in the stomach lining of its predators. But when the spines lodged in the Cuckoo’s stomach become a problem, they regurgitate the entire stomach lining like owls do with the indigestible parts of their prey.

It’s well known that old World cuckoos are brood parasites (lay their eggs in other bird’s nests). New World cuckoos may sometimes do so as well, but primarily they raise their own young.

My only encounters with this species so far have been with migrating individuals on South Padre Island. My stay in Texas during spring 2021 introduced me to almost 70 bird species, including the Black-Billed Cuckoo.

Science does not consider Black-Billed Cuckoos threatened, but their population is in decline. Loss of habitat and poisonous insecticides are the suspected causes for this drop in numbers. These birds are monotypic (researchers recognise no subspecies).

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