Beak of the Week – Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
(Coccyzus americanus)
Family: Cuculidae

Spring migration is often synonymous with the arrival of flashy yellow birds flitting through the treetops. But the Yellow-billed Cuckoo – our Beak of the Week – has only a little bit of yellow to add to the mix.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos appear slender and clean-cut, with their upperparts brown and undersides white. They have long tails with white spots underneath, their wings have patches of reddish-brown, and – you guessed it – they have yellowish bills.

Despite being comparable in size to Blue Jays, Yellow-billed Cuckoos are often hard to spot as they move sneakily and quietly through the treetops looking for insects to eat. They feed primarily on caterpillars, which many other species of insectivorous birds will avoid, but they will also catch other insects in flight.

When their food sources are particularly abundant, nesting Yellow-billed Cuckoos will occasionally lay an egg in a nearby nest belonging to another tree-nesting species, such as American Robin, letting the nest owners take care of feeding and raising their young.

By Aidan Healey, Conservation Technician
Photos by Greg Lavaty

Visit our Bird Gallery to learn about other Texas birds.

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