Black-billed Cuckoo

Black Billed Cuckoo Picture

A Black-billed Cuckoo is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Black-billed Cuckoos. We have also put together a list of fun Black-billed Cuckoo T-shirts, Black-billed Cuckoo bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.

About the Black-billed Cuckoo

Sometimes called the “rain crow,” this uncommon and elusive bird when breeding can be found in the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It is also present in moist woodland areas in the United States from Tennessee to Oklahoma. This vocal bird is known for its melodious staccato and its long motionless perches. Some of its distinctive characters include:

Description and Identification

Black-billed Cuckoos are 11-12.6 inches long with a wingspan of 17.5 inches. They weigh about 1.6-1.9 ounces. The upperparts, head, and crown of these birds are brown, while their underparts are white. They have a black bill that curves downwards. Black-billed Cuckoos display sexual dimorphism as the females are slightly larger than the males. Adult Black-billed Cuckoos have a characteristic reddish ring around their eyes, while younglings have a yellowish or buff-colored eye-ring. Younglings can have cream-colored underparts and rusty-brown patches on their wings. Black-billed Cuckoos are extremely similar in appearance to their relatives Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Except for the presence of yellow lower mandibles, and reddish-brown wings in Yellow-billed Cuckoos, these birds look exactly the same as Black-billed Cuckoos.

Black-billed Cuckoo Color Pattern

Black-billed Cuckoos are primarily brown with no cinnamon tones on their upper parts whilst white on their underparts. There exists a red ring around their eyes. Their tail which is primarily black on the upper parts, sandwiches central brown feathers.

Black-billed Cuckoo Size

Though smaller than a Crow, they are slightly larger compared to a Baltimore Oriole. They have a long tail that often lets them assume a hunchbacked posture when perching. They are slender and possess a slightly long curved bill. Both sexes are between 11 and 12.2 inches in length and weigh 1.4-2.3 ounces. They have a wingspan of 13.4-15.8 inches.

Black-billed Cuckoo Behavior

Black-billed Cuckoos are known to be sluggish and secretive. They can be found in dense vegetation, where they perch motionless on trees. Their nickname “rain crows” is derived from their behavior to call just before the rain starts. It often flies low, making short flights from tree to tree.

Black-billed Cuckoo Diet

Black-billed Cuckoos forage for food in shrubs and trees. Insects form a major portion of their diet, but they also eat snails, bird eggs, and berries. These birds bang caterpillars against walls to remove indigestible hairs before eating them. Gypsy moths are not commonly eaten by birds, but they are an important source of nutrition for lack-billed cuckoos. Gypsy moths are indigestible for other birds due to their hair-like setae, but Black-billed Cuckoos can consume them because of their ability to shed their abdominal lining. Other organisms eaten by these birds are dragonflies, stink bugs, and fall webworms.

They predominantly feed on all types of caterpillars. They can also feed on insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and other insects. They are also known to supplement their diet with snails, small fish, small fruits, and eggs of other birds.

Black-billed Cuckoo Habitat

Black-billed Cuckoos mostly inhabit wetlands and wooded areas. They can also be found in orchards and thickets of deciduous forests. These birds prefer habitats near bodies of natural water, such as rivers, streams, or lakes. Rarely, Black-billed Cuckoos can be sighted in golf courses or parks.

These birds can be found in dense thickets and woodlands where they breed. They prefer trees that are near water bodies. During migration, they flock to scrublands, orchards, thickets, and woodlands. During the courtship period, they can either nest on the ground or on low trees.

Range and Migration

Black-billed Cuckoos are commonly found in America, East of the Rockies. Some of them can also be found further northward in Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. During springs they can be sighted in the southern U.S. and in Central America. Their wintering grounds are in northwestern South America. Although these birds are mostly found in North America, there have been sightings of them in British Columbia, California, and Washington. Black-billed Cuckoos are also vagrants to Greenland, and western Europe.

Black Billed Cuckoo Lifecycle

After copulation, the female lays around 2-4 eggs and incubates them for 10-13 days after which they hatch. The young hatchlings leave the nest after 7 days which is considered to be too early compared to other birds. A Black-billed Cuckoo has an average lifespan of 4 years in the wild.


Males of Black-billed Cuckoos court the females by perching beside them with food in their mouths. This is followed by a “cucucu” call. Interested females will move closer to the males. After the female gives a “mew” call while flicking her tail up and down, the male hops closer to the female and mounts her. After copulation, the males might eat their food or present it to the females. In late May or June, these pairs will begin gathering materials to build their nests with small twigs. The nests are lined with leaves, pine needles, and empty cocoons. Black-billed Cuckoos are brood parasites, as they are known to lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Both males and females participate in incubation for a period of 10-11 days.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Black-billed Cuckoos

The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Black-billed Cuckoos are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Black-billed Cuckoo Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Black-billed Cuckoo. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month. 

Bird Feeders For Black-billed Cuckoos

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses For Black-billed Cuckoos

There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great. 

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