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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America

Plate XXVIII. The yellow-billed cuckoo. (Coccygus Americanus.),   p. 30

Page 30

tinguished from the male by a duller coloring of the plumage, es-
pecially by the color of the throat, which, as well as the line over
the eye, is, in her, of a loam-yellow color. The young of the first
year resemble the female in color and markings, but can be easily
distinguished by having their colors or markings more or less in-
distinct. The wing from its bend to its tip is four and a half inches,
and the tail two and a half inches long.
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo. (Coccygus Americanus.)
Fig. x.
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is also called the Caw Crow and Rain
Crow. The latter name is probably given it on account of its being
most noisy just before or after a shower of rain. The name Caw
Crow it takes from the peculiar sound of its voice, which strongly
resembles the words " caw, caw, caw." These it utters at first
slowly, increasing in rapidity until they seem to run into each
other. It is difficult to see the bird when he utters his " caw, caw,
caw," as he sits at such times perfectly still, the sound seeming to
come from a great distance. This Cuckoo is a solitary bird, but
not very shy.  He makes his appearance in Ohio, from the
South, in the latter part of April, but more regularly at the begin-
ning of May, and retires, after raising his young, about the mid-
dle of September, frequenting in the meantime the borders of sol-
itary swamps, hedges, or apple-orchards. The European Cuckoo
( Cuculus Canorus) never constructs its own nest or rears its own
young, but simply drops its eggs into the nests of other birds, leav-
ing to others the task of hatching and bringing up the young
Cuckoos. It always drops but one egg into one and the same
nest. This practice has caused the whole tribe of Cuckoos to be
stigmatized as destitute of all parental affection. In truth, our
Yellow-billed Cuckoo is not entirely clear of this charge, though,
as a rule, it builds its own nest, hatches its own eggs, and rears
its own young; yet sometimes an egg or a young one of this spe-
cies is found in the nest of another, as in that of a Robin Red-
breast or of a Brown Thrush. These birds which have to raise
the strange foundling, seem to be very fond of it, and bestow as
much parental care on it as on their own offspring.
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is nowhere rare, and for those well-
acquainted with its habits, it is not difficult to observe the bird. The
pairs generally settle in the dense forests, but single ones are fre-
quently found in the immediate neighborhood of human habita-
tions, chiefly in orchards, where they make themselves conspicuous
by their guttural " caw, caw, caw," which they utter almost in-
cessantly for hours, especially on damp, warm days, and sometimes
during the night. This Cuckoo is a regular slipper, but in no-
wise a runner. Among the branches of trees he moves like a
Titmouse with the greatest ease, seldom coming to the ground, and,
if he does so for a change, he moves about in an exceedingly awk-
ward manner, elevating his long tail high in the air. His flight
is swift and noiseless, rarely far extended, being interrupted by the
first tree. He seems to feel safer in the closely leaved crowns of
trees, and therefore does not like to expose himself by continuous
flight. 'While passing among the branches on a foraging tour, he
sometimes shows his upper and sometimes his under side. His
food consists of insects and fruits, such as butterflies, grasshoppers,
caterpillars, etc., and in the autumn, different kinds of berries.
There is a strong suspicion against him that he plunders the nests
of other small birds; but although I have often closely watched
him, I have never caught him committing such an outrage. It is a
very remarkable fact of this bird that the female begins to sit as
soon as she has laid her first egg, and the consequence is that the
young appear irregularly one after another, so that in the same
nest may sometimes be found eggs and half-fledged and full-
fledged young ones. This Cuckoo begins to pair in the early part
of May. This process is usually celebrated by obstinate battles
among the males. Soon after pairing, they begin to build their
nests. The nest is commonly placed among the horizontal branches
of an apple-tree; sometimes on a thorn, cedar, or other bush,
usually in a retired part of the wood. The nest is artlessly con-
structed, and has hardly any cavity at all. It is composed of fine
sticks and twigs, intermixed with weeds and fibers, and usually
with blossoms of the maple-tree. The eggs are generally four,
sometimes but three, and occasionally five. They are of a greenish-
blue color, and of a size proportioned to the size of the bird. The
male is usually near while the female is sitting, and gives the
alarm when an enemy approaches. While the female is sitting,
you can almost reach her with your hand; but then she will sud-
denly precipitate herself to the ground, feigning lameness, flutter-
ing, trailing her wings-in fact, she will use all the tricks that
some other birds practice, as Quails, Woodcocks, and several
others. Both parents provide the food for the young.
Notwithstanding his plain colors, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a
very handsome bird and of a fine shape. His whole upper parts
are of a dark glossy-drab, or of what we may call a Quaker hue,
with some greenish silken reflections; to this the inner vanes
of the wing-feathers are exceptions, these being of a red-
dish cinnamon color. The tail is long, and usually consists of ten
feathers, sometimes of twelve-the two middle ones being longest,
and of the same drab color as the back, though a little darker
toward the tip; the others, which gradually shorten to the outer
ones, are black, largely tipped with white; the two outer feathers
are hardly half as long as the middle ones. The whole lower
parts are white, excepting those of the fore part of the breast and
neck, which incline somewhat to a bluish-gray. The feathers
covering the thighs are prolonged like those of the Hawk tribe.
The legs and feet are of a light-blue color; there are four toes, two
placed forward and two behind, as in all other Cuckoo birds. The
bill is rather long i proportion to the size of the bird, very broad
at the base and a little bent; it is of a dusky-brown color above
and yellow below. The color of the iris is hazel, and the feathers
reach close to the eyelid, which is yellow. The female differs but
little from the male, except that the four middle feathers of the
tail are of that drab color and the white on her is not so pure,
while the grayish on the fore breast is darker and further extended.
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is entitled to protection, as he destroys
innumerable obnoxious larva and insects, and is thus a benefactor
to the farmer and gardener. The inner membrane of the gizzard,
which in many other species is very hard and muscular, is in this
bird soft and lax, and therefore capable of great extension. It is
covered with a growth of fine hair of a fawn color, and is perhaps
intended by nature as a protection against the irritating effect,
which would otherwise be produced by swallowing hair-covered
The Crested Titmouse. (Lophophanes bicolor.)
Fig. 2.
This noisy bird often associates with the Black-capped Tit-
mouse, but is more suspicious and less active. Its notes are more
musical, and there is more variety in its tones. At times its voice
is not louder than the squeaking of a mouse, while at other times
the sounds are loud and clear, resembling the whistling for a dog.
It often keeps up its whistling for more than half an hour at a time,
while its high-pointed crest gives it a neat and elegant appearance.
Its food consists of all kinds of insects and their larvae, as well as
of small fruits and berries. As the muscles of its neck possess
considerable strength, it digs almost continually into acorns, nuts,

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