Black-billed CuckooCoccyzus erythropthalmus (Wilson)
Status Uncommon in summer. Breeds. Formerly fairly common but in recent decades much less so. Usually first seen in May (average 23 May, earliest 6 May). Numbers are augmented during fall migration. Wanderers, sometimes singing birds, appear in July in areas where not seen previously; a bird on Sable Island on 16 July 1976 was in juvenile plumage. The peak of movement generally occurs in late September or early October, but birds may linger (average date of last reports 18 October, latest 22 November) .
Description Length: 28-33 cm. Adults: Similar to the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, but bill is all black, and tail feathers are more narrowly margined with white.
Breeding Nest: A slovenly arrangement of twigs, often little more than adequate. Sometimes a few green leaves are found in a nest; it is believed these are added about the time the eggs are hatching. Nests are sometimes placed in a clump of deciduous bushes or on a low branch of an apple tree in an orchard, rarely in an evergreen, and always at low elevations. Eggs: 2-4, usually 3; pale greenish blue, rounded ovate, the surface being rough rather than glossy. Sometimes, perhaps usually, the first egg is partially incubated before the final ones appear. Individual pairs may initiate nesting at any time during the summer, showing characteristic irregularity in that respect too.
A nest in North Aylesford, Kings County, examined on 22 June 1945, contained four young, the smallest of which was only about one-half the size of the largest. This nest was in a small fir tree growing in a thick clump of deciduous bushes, and about 2.5 m from the ground. Another was discovered in the same locality on 2 July 1949 containing three eggs, one fresh, the others partially incubated. A late nest reported by John Betts, located in River Hebert, Cumberland County, contained two eggs on 6 August 1939.
Range Breeds across southern Canada from southeastern Alberta to Nova Scotia and south to the southern states. Winters in South America.
Remarks There is some evidence, though inconclusive, that large numbers of these birds have been poisoned in recent decades by devouring caterpillars that were victims of the arsenical sprays formerly used by orchardists. lt is largely insectivorous, showing a marked preference for tent caterpillars. Its call, a hollow, plaintive coo-coo coo coo-coo-coo, is believed by some to forecast rain, hence the name "rain-bird" by which it is commonly known in parts of its range.
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