Yellow billed cuckoos are slim birds with long tails. They have grayish-brown backs and their underparts are white. Their tails are striped with black and white colors and their bills are mostly yellow (true to their name) and curved downward. To hear a yellow billed cuckoo call, click here .
Habitat: Yellow billed cuckoos must live near water, in what are called riparian habitats. This means that they thrive in areas near streams, rivers, or other water bodies. In Idaho, these birds are dependent upon riparian areas dominated by cottonwood trees. These areas tend to have high humidity levels, which the cuckoos prefer for laying their eggs. In Idaho, the yellow-billed cuckoo is a rare visitor and local breeder that occurs in scattered drainages primarily in the southern portion of the state.
Food: Yellow-billed cuckoos primarily eat large insects such as caterpillars, katydids, cicadas, grasshoppers, and crickets. Occasionally, they eat bird eggs and young, snails, frogs, and lizards. They also will consume small fruits and seeds, but more frequently in fall and on their wintering grounds. Parents feed their young regurgitated insects.
Facts: Loss and degradation of breeding habitat are believed to have caused declines in the distribution and abundance of the these birds. Major declines have been documented throughout this species’ range in the western U.S., so much that they are now extremely rare in most areas. Available breeding habitat also has been substantially reduced in area and quality by activities that have lowered the water table (e.g., water diversion, ground water pumping) and the replacement of native riparian vegetation with invasive non-native plants. Disturbances imposed by humans, such as vegetation removal, grazing, and flooding, have facilitated the invasion of non-native plants. Land management agencies are currently working to protect yellow billed cuckoo habitats throughout southern Idaho.