Males and females are similar in appearance with long tails and black bills. Adults have a red orbital ring, a brown head, nape, back, upperwings and uppertail feathers. Their chin, foreneck, breast and belly are white, and the tail is gray below with narrow white tips. Juveniles exhibit a yellow orbital ring, a brown head, nape, back, upperwings, and uppertail with pale tips to the wing coverts. Their chin, foreneck, breast and belly are white, and the tail is gray below with narrow buff tips. They are 10.5 to 12.5 inches in length with a wingspread of 15 to 16.75 inches. They weigh about 1.25 to 1.5 ounces. The common call is a series of two to five cu-cu-cu, but they also utter a series of rapid kuks that are all in one pitch. Other names for the black-billed cuckoo are: kow-kow, rain bird, rain dove and rain crow
Range: The black-billed cuckoo breeds from Alberta and Montana east to Maritime Provinces, and south to northern Texas, Arkansas, and South Carolina. The birds winter in South America. The black-billed cuckoo is rather rare in Colorado. Most Colorado sightings involve strays, although there are historic records that indicate three nests in Denver and Colorado Springs some 40 years ago. Only one nest site has been confirmed during recent years. It was located in northeastern Colorado on the Tamarack State Wildlife Area in Logan County.
Habitat: They inhabit extensive areas of upland woods that provide a variety of trees, bushes and vines. Streamside woods and moist thickets in overgrown pastures and orchards are preferred; however, they are also found in brushy pastures, hedgerows, open woodlands, orchards, thickets and along wooded roadsides.
Diet: Their diet consists primarily of caterpillars, especially tent caterpillars, but they also feed on other insects, spiders, small mollusks, fish and wild fruits and berries.
Reproduction: Black-billed cuckoos select nest sites that are well concealed by overhanging branches and clusters of leaves. The nest is a platform, typically four to six feet above the ground, constructed out of loosely woven twigs and lined with grasses and roots. The female will lay two to five pale green-blue eggs and incubate them for 14 days with help from the male. The young leave the nest between nine and 14 days after hatching. Black-billed cuckoos may lay their eggs in nests of other birds such as yellow-billed cuckoos, gray catbirds, wood thrushes, yellow warblers and chipping sparrows.
For more information, see the Natural Diversity Information Source species profile.