#378 Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Ridgewood Reservoir

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo has been my nemesis bird for a while now. Although it breeds in New York City, and although it is regularly reported in city parks, I have never had an unambiguous look at one. That chyanged this morning. I had joined Steve and Heidi Nanz, Rob Jett, Janet Schumacher, Suzanne Ortiz, and several others for a continuing breeding bird census at Ridgewood Reservoir. This was the third of a planned six visits to the site this season.
We parked the cars across Vermont Place from the reservoir. A pair of male Baltimore Orioles were obvious in a nearby tree. However the census doesn’t start till we cross the street. No sooner had we done so, than Rob called out “Yellow-billed Cuckoo!” It was high up in the trees, and moving; but it didn’t fly too far away; and eventually I was able to get a clear look at it. I

I’m afraid this is the best picture of the bird I got, and you really can’t identify it from this:

Yellow-billed Cuckoo in tree

It did not pose for my photographs, I’m afraid. I have several other photos of the branch it just left, but it was clearly ID’able through binoculars. It was obviously a cuckoo, had a prominent slightly curved yellow bill, and large white spots on the underside of the tail. The Black-billed Cuckoo, the only other cuckoo in the area, has a black bill and small white spots on the underside of the tail.

Steve Nanz did get a much better picture of the bird:

Yellow-billed Cuckoo in tree

We spent another four+ hours at the site after that, counting birds and looking for evidence of breeding. We found Baltimore Orioles building nests, and some American Robin nests. However, we also saw a lot of warblers that are likely just passing through. (They’re really only two or three species of warbler that breed in New York City: Yellow, Common Yellowthroat, and perhaps American Redstart.)

This isn’t a complete list, but other birds we counted today included:

  • Mallard
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Tree Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • House Wren
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Canada Warbler
  • Song Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow

Here’s the Bay-breasted Warbler, which was somewhat more cooperative than the cuckoo:

Bay-breasted Warbler

We’ll be back in a couple of weeks to see who’s still around.

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