Black-Billed Cuckoo

Black-Billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)

black-billed cuckoo

Black-billed cuckoo./G. McElroy

General: This tall, slender bird has a long tail, a red eye-ring, a brown head and back, and white undersides. Black-billed cuckoos live in dense, brushy forests, where they feed extensively on insects, particularly caterpillars. Favored habitats include deciduous and mixed woodlands, forest edges, and thickets, usually near lakes, streams, and wetlands. Optimal habitat consists of young regrowing woodland whose dense vertical structure provides cover for nesting as well as foraging. Black-billed cuckoos are secretive and can be hard to find. They nest in shrubs and low trees, usually less than 10 feet above the ground. During migration, these birds use dense cover of young trees and tall shrubs for feeding and resting.

Status: As of 2015, 15 Eastern and Midwestern states listed the black-billed cuckoo as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Local populations rise and fall as birds shift about year to year in response to caterpillar outbreaks.

How to Help Black-Billed Cuckoos: Little information exists on forest management recommendations for this species, although it is generally considered to be an early successional (young forest) habitat specialist.
Both public and private landowners can make young forest habitat. The Young Forest Guide explains how.

Click on the map at left to see a larger image.

For more detailed information on this animal, including references to scientific papers, download Under Cover: Wildlife of Shrublands and Young Forest. This publication can also be purchased from the Wildlife Management Institute.

Visit a habitat demonstration area within this species' range to increase your chances of seeing black-billed cuckoos and other wildlife that use young forest.