Nombre en español: Cuco Americano
Nombre en ingles: Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Nombre científico: Coccyzus americanus
Foto: Wilmer Quiceno/Alejandro Cartagena/Diego Emerson Torres
Canto: Andrew Spencer
El cuclillo piquigualdo (Coccyzus americanus) es un especie de ave cuculiforme perteneciente a la familia de los cucúlidos que vive en América.
El cuclillo piquigualdo está ampliamente distribuido por América, cría en Norteamérica, las Antillas Mayores y la península de Yucatán y migra en invierno a Sudamérica.
A diferencias de otras especies de cucos, ésta no parasita los nidos de otras aves ya que se construye su propio nido.
The yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) is a cuckoo. Common folk-names for this bird in the southern United States are rain crow and storm crow. These likely refer to the bird’s habit of calling on hot days, often presaging rain or thunderstorms.
The genus name is from Ancient Greek kokkuzo, which means to call like a common cuckoo, and americana means “of America”.
Comparison of black-billed cuckoo and yellow-billed cuckoo
Adults have a long tail, brown above and black-and-white below, and a black curved bill with yellow especially on the lower mandible. The head and upper parts are brown and the underparts are white. There is a yellow ring around the eye. It shows cinnamon on the wings in flight. Juveniles are similar, but the black on the undertail is replaced by gray.
This bird has a number of calls; the most common is a rapid ka ka ka ka ka kow kow kow.
There is an ongoing debate regarding the taxonomic status of the western race and if it is distinct from those birds in the east. This question is significant to the conservation status of this species in the west, where it has declined to a tiny fraction of its population a century ago. Populations of this species in western North America are in steep decline. The bird disappeared from British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon during the first half of the twentieth century. Eastern populations have declined as well, though not as precipitously. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the western Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Yellow-billed Cuckoos as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and the service also has proposed establishing 546,335 acres in nine western states as critical habitat for the western DPS of the yellow-billed cuckoo. However, controversy over the taxonomic status and heavy pressure from livestock and mining industries have caused the Trump administration to attempt to end the species’ protections, while the FWS has proposed a review of the bird’s listing.
Their breeding habitat is deciduous woods from southern Canada to Mexico. They migrate to Central America and as far south as northern Argentina. This bird is a rare vagrant to western Europe.
These birds forage in dense shrubs and trees, also may catch insects in flight. They mainly eat insects, especially tent caterpillars and cicadas, but also some lizards, eggs of other birds and berries. Cuckoos sometimes congregate near insect outbreaks or emergences, including outbreaks of exotic gypsy moth caterpillars.
They nest in a tree or shrub, usually up to 2–12 feet (1–4 meters) above the ground. The nest is a flimsy platform of short twigs placed on a horizontal branch. The 3-4 eggs are incubated for 14 days or less. The chicks are able to climb about with agility at 7–9 days of age. At about this same time, the feathers of the chicks burst out of their sheaths and the young are able to fly. The entire time from egg-laying to fledging may be as little as 17 days.
Yellow-billed cuckoos occasionally lay eggs in the nests of other birds (most often the closely related black-billed cuckoo), but they are not obligate brood parasites of other birds as is the common cuckoo of Eurasia.
Cuckoos are known worldwide for their bizarre haunts and habits, and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is no exception. Furtive, retiring, and watchful by nature, this species’ presence may be first revealed by its hollow, wooden call: ka-ka-ka-ka- kow-kow-kow-kow-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp . It has been dubbed the “Raincrow” because of its apparent tendency to call more frequently on cloudy days, although its proficiency as predictor of weather has never been demonstrated.
The summer distribution of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo ranges throughout much of the United States, southeastern Canada, Greater Antilles, and Mexico, but range boundaries have been confused by recurrent observations of nonbreeding individuals away from breeding sites. Vagrants are not infrequent on Atlantic shores and prairies in Canada, and occasionally wander as far as Alaska and western Europe. Although generally considered a neotropical migrant, some southern populations may prove to be sedentary. Furthermore, immature cuckoos collected in South America in summer suggest isolated breeding sites at tropical latitudes.
Like other cuckoos, the breeding behavior of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is peculiar. The onset of breeding is apparently correlated with an abundant local food supply. Once initiated, the breeding cycle is extremely rapid, and requires only 17 days from egg-laying to fledging of young. Bursting feather sheaths allow nestlings to become fully feathered within two hours. In addition, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and its congener, the Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus), are the only known facultative, interspecific brood parasites among altricial birds. At least 11 passerine species have been used as hosts, most frequently the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), and Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). Although the production of extra eggs has been shown, in some cases, to coincide with periodic outbreaks of caterpillars and cicadas, behavioral and physiological mechanisms controlling parasitism remain obscure. Coupled to this mystery is evidence to support the selection of hosts based on egg color, not unlike egg mimicry exhibited by obligately parasitic Old World cuckoos. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo has also been observed to breed cooperatively in California, with at least three or four adults tending a single nest.
Unfortunately, the future of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is uncertain. Populations are declining precipitously throughout its distribution. Western populations have suffered severe range contractions during the twentieth century, and are already extirpated from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and possibly Nevada. In California, this cuckoo once numbered more than 15,000 pairs, but the population has been reduced to about 30 pairs in less than 100 years due to the destruction of preferred riparian habitat and to pesticide use. Surprisingly, the critically imperiled western population has yet to receive adequate federal and state protection due primarily to controversy surrounding the validity of its subspecies status. Immediate conservation intervention is essential to ensure that the Raincrow continues to be heard calling among western cottonwoods.
Few aspects of Yellow-billed Cuckoo life history have been adequately studied. Feeding and nesting behavior is described by Hamilton and Hamilton (1965) and Laymon (1980), with detailed observations of single nests reported by Preble (1957) and Potter (1980). In addition, some anomalous breeding behaviors have been examined (Nolan and Thompson 1975, Fleischer et al. 1985, Hughes 1997). The distribution and status of western populations has been quantified by Gaines and Laymon (1984), Howe (1986), Groschupf (1987), and Laymon and Halterman (1987).