South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Black-billed Cuckoo

Coccyzus erythropthalmus

Length: 11 to 12 inches Wingspan: 15 to 17 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Brownish upperparts, white underparts, black bill, narrow red eye-ring.

Black-billed Cuckoo - Coccyzus erythropthalmusThe Black-billed Cuckoo is most often found in dense deciduous woodlands and thickets, and is more often heard than seen.  Populations often fall and rise in conjunction with caterpillar populations, especially hairy tent caterpillars.  When discovered, young of the species will sometimes "freeze" with their neck stretched and bill in an upright position, somewhat similar to how an American Bittern "hides". 

Habitat: Primarily found in deciduous forests.  This may include forest interiors, woodland edges, riparian areas, marshland edges, and shrubby second-growth forest. 

Diet: Heavily dependent upon caterpillars, although they will also feed on other insects as available.  Will also occasionally eat small fruits and berries, bird eggs, snails, and small fish.

Behavior: Climbs, flits, and hops in the foliage of trees and bushes, gleaning insects from foliage and branches as it moves.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Repeated po po po, also a rolling call beginning very rapidly and slowing towards the end.

Migration: Summers throughout the Great Plains, the Midwest, the Northeastern U.S., the Appalachians, and southern Canada.  Winters in South America.

Similar Species: Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Conservation Status: Populations rise and fall with availability of caterpillars for forage, but overall, generally stable throughout its range.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Black-billed Cuckoo

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Black-billed Cuckoo"

3) eNature.com: Black-billed Cuckoo

Photo Information: May 16th, 2007 - Newton Hills State Park - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Black-billed Cuckoo photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Black-billed Cuckoo - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant, and summer breeding resident.