Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Green Gate Cottonwoods

From: Chris Howard
Remote Name:
Date: 06/05/02
Time: 09:00 AM


I was excited to see my first Yellow-billed Cuckoo in California at the Dixon Green Gate Cottonwoods this morning (5 June) at 6:30AM. The bird was silent for the 30 seconds or so I watched it. It flew in short, graceful flights amongst the high cottonwood branches. With binoculars I could easily see the long decurved yellow bill (maybe some dark on the culmen?), dark face patch, white chin and throat, uniformly chocolate brown back, and a slight rufous tinge to the brown, droopy wings. Despite the quick response by other birders, the bird was not refound. This bird was certainly in migration, as the riparian habitat in the immidiate area is not extensive enough to suit it's breeding requirements.

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a state-listed endangered species, has become a critically rare breeding bird in Califonia. In surveys conducted in 1986 and 1987 by Steve Laymon, only 30-33 pairs were found in all of California. Loss of riparian forest habitat is the reason for the decline of this once common bird (Grinnell, 1915). Last year Debby Parker found one individual in migration on 4 June in the Dixon Lane area. That cuckoos are still migrating to the Owens Valley underscores the importance of protecting and improving what little riparian habitat remains.