Heard and not seen: Yellow-billed Cuckoos or “Raincrows”

Published 11:33am Monday, June 11, 2012

Yellow-billed populations are relatively stable in the eastern United States, but in the West they have been declining at more than 1 percent per year since the 1970s. This amounts to one third fewer birds than existed only a generation ago. The likely culprit of this decline is the destruction of riparian vegetation, a result of cattle grazing, stream channel alteration, water diversion for agriculture and the cutting of trees. Also pesticides may be curtailing populations in agricultural areas, both on its breeding and wintering grounds.
Here in Western North Carolina, Yellow-billed Cuckoos and their close relatives, Black-billed Cuckoos, appear around the beginning of May. While the former species breeds throughout our area, the Black-billed Cuckoo is a rare summer breeding bird, although it has recently begun to breed along the North Carolina coast – a very unusual change in its breeding range.
Next time you walk in the woods or take a FENCE bird walk, listen carefully and you might hear the distinctive sounds of the “rain crow.” These clucking sounds are very much a part of the woodlands throughout the southern US.
Simon Thompson has lived in WNC for the past 20 years. He owns and operates his own birding tour company, Ventures Birding Tours. WWW.birdventures.com
He and Chris also own and operate the Asheville Wild Birds Unlimited Store. For more information on any of the birding activities in the area, drop by the store or check his website at www.asheville.wbu.com

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