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Cuckoos - Tent Caterpillar Birds

Hear that staccato? It's a Yellow-billed Cuckoo!
© Gordon Vickrey View Large

One of two species of cuckoos in North America, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, pictured here, lives in broadleaf forests throughout the East and riparian stands in the Southwest. They were common breeding birds in the Pacific Northwest as late as the 1920s, but then they disappeared. The Black-billed Cuckoo is a more northerly species that lives in dense woodland, even conifer forests. Cuckoos perch quietly and scan their surroundings for food. Hairy tent caterpillars, shunned by most birds, are often on their meal ticket. 

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Cuckoos: Tent Caterpillar Birds

Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote!

[Breeding call of Yellow-billed Cuckoo + morning in a deciduous forest] 

This staccato call tells us there’s a Yellow-billed Cuckoo nearby. One of two species of cuckoos in the woodlands of North America, the Yellow-billed lives in broadleaf forests throughout the East and riparian stands in the Southwest. They were common breeding birds in the Pacific Northwest as late as the 1920s, but then they disappeared. Ornithologists still don’t know why. 

The Black-billed Cuckoo is a more northerly species that lives in dense woodland, even conifer forests.

[Breeding call of Black-billed Cuckoo]

Cuckoos perch quietly and scan their surroundings for food. Hairy tent caterpillars, shunned by most birds, are often on their meal ticket. So, if you have an infestation of tent caterpillars, you might see one of these slender brown and white birds with long, white-spotted tails.

[Breeding call of Yellow-billed Cuckoo]

The cuckoo plucks a caterpillar from its tent and manipulates it back and forth in its bill, taking off many of the bothersome hairs. But some of them remain, and cuckoo stomachs are sometimes lined with these hairs. When the hairs are dense enough to prevent digestion, the entire stomach lining is cast off and regurgitated. Nature finds surprising ways to deal with problems!

For BirdNote, I'm Mary McCann.

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo [10009] recorded by Terri Gallion; call of the Black-billed Cuckoo [8219] recorded by G.B.Reynard. 

Deciduous forest morning songbirds Essentials 50 recorded by Gordon Hempton and provided courtesy of QuietPlanet.com 

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler  Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org July 2013 Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# cuckoo-02-2013-06-13 cuckoo-02

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