About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Do we have Cuckoo Birds in Michigan?

Yes, the Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos both nest in Michigan.

According to Birds of Michigan by Ted Black, “shrubby field edges, hedgerows, tangled riparian thickets and abandoned, overgrown fields provide the elusive Black-billed Cuckoo with its preferred nesting haunts. Despite not being particularly rare in Michigan, it remains an enigma to many would-be observers.

Arriving in late May, this cuckoo quietly hops, flits and skulks through low, dense, deciduous vegetation in its ultra-secret search for sustenance. Only when vegetation is in full bloom will males issue their loud, long, irregular calls, advertising to females that it is time to nest. After a brief courtship, newly joined Black-billed Cuckoo pairs construct a makeshift nest, incubate the eggs and raise their young, after which they promptly return to their covert lives.

The Black-billed Cuckoo is one of few birds that thrive on hairy caterpillars, particularly tent caterpillars. There is even evidence to suggest that populations of this bird increase when a caterpillar infestation occurs.

This cuckoo is reluctant to fly more than a short distance during nesting, but it will migrate as far as northwestern South America to avoid the North American winter.”

Similarly, “the Yellow-billed Cuckoo skillfully negotiates its tangled home within impenetrable, deciduous undergrowth in silence, relying on obscurity for survival.

Then, for a short period during nesting, the male cuckoo temps fate by issuing a barrage of loud, rhythmic courtship calls. Some people have suggested that the cuckoo has a propensity for calling on dark, cloudy days in late spring and early summer. It is even called “Rain Crow” in some parts of its North American range.

In addition to consuming large quantities of hairy caterpillars, Yellow-billed Cuckoos feast on wild berries, young frogs and newts, small bird eggs and a variety of insects, including beetles, grasshoppers and cicadas.

Though some Yellow-billed Cuckoos may lay eggs in the unattended nests of neighboring Black-billed Cuckoos, neither of these cuckoos is considered to be a “brood parasite.”

Some Yellow-billed Cuckoos migrate as far south as Argentina for the winter.”

1. Birds of Michigan: by Ted Black
2. Photos from Wikipedia: Black-billed Cuckoo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo

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