Cuckoo, Black-billed

This is the only member of the order Cuculiformes, family Cuculidae confirmed for the province. This family of approximately 142 species is found on all continents except Antarctica, with greater diversity in the Old World. These long-tailed, slim birds take insect prey with their long, slender, down-curved bills. Their zygodactylous (two toes forward and two toes backward) foot gives them a good grip on branches. A number of species are brood parasites; the black-billed cuckoo is not. The moderate-sized (approximately 30 cm) black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus), a bird of the eastern hardwoods, is migratory, breeding in the lower half of the province, up into the southern margins of the boreal forest. It is more common in the eastern portion of the province. It feeds particularly on tent caterpillars. It is hard to detect, sitting quietly within vegetation. When seen, its brown back and white underparts, along with its long tail and red eye-ring, are distinctive.

Diane Secoy

Further Reading

Alsop, Fred J., III. 2002. Birds of Canada. New York: Dorling Kindersley.