Saturday, 23 May 2015

Black-billed Cuckoo (Coulicou à bec noir)

     Every Thursday and Sunday I monitor a route for rare, a local land trust and research facility. Miriam always accompanies me on the Sunday route and before actually embarking on our survey we always check in with the guys who are operating a banding station. Last week we arrived just as they had banded a Black-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus erythropthalmus.

     This species is unusual in that it feeds readily on tent caterpillars, a prey which most other species avoid. Periodically, tent caterpillars which are moderately sized species in the genus Melacosoma and in the moth family Lasiocampidae, are irruptive and this year appears to be one of those times.

     Subsequently, Miriam and I heard a Black-billed Cuckoo during our walk and three others had been banded last time I checked. So, there appears to be a correlation between a tent caterpillar outbreak and the abundance of Black-billed Cuckoos. Quite how this knowledge becomes known to the cuckoos I am unable to explain.
     Mayapples Podophyllum peltatum are now in flower and the forest floor was adorned with this species.

     Bracket fungi, which for some reason hold a special fascination for me, were commonly found, some quite magnificent in their size, colouration and structure.

     These organisms are among the many groups of fungi that comprise the phylum Basidiomycota. Ultimately they cause the death of the tree, thereby returning its nutrients to the cycle of growth in a healthy forest.


  1. The nature continually surprises me :) I wish you a nice Sunday.

  2. Beautiful pictures David.
    Beautiful bird in your hand, beautiful flowers too, and the caterpillars is very special.
    Best regards, Irma

  3. Beautiful photos! Some years we have caterpillars that cover the bird cherries in their white silky webs.

  4. David, that Cuckoo is blinder, and the caterpillars are excellent.

  5. It is cool seeing the Cuckoo up close. The flowers are lovely. We have way too many of the tent caterpillars. Cool shot of the fungi, sad for the tree. Great post.

  6. i have noticed a few patches of tent caterpillars this year on my property, but no cuckoo's. fun to see what is happening in your area.

  7. Beautiful series, David. I like the pictures of the caterpillars nest, I've never seen such a 'construction'.
    Gr Jan W

  8. Excellent photos of nature !!!

  9. Hello David, This is very interesting information about the Black-Billed Cuckoo and the caterpillars. That flower is most beautyful. So nice to see all the different species on the other side of the globe.

  10. Nice varied blog you have here David
    Greetings Tinie

  11. Tent caterpillars creep me out. I am glad there is a bird that eats them! Pretty blooms, and I love fungi.

  12. I am always astonished by a bird's ability to find food quickly and as you say, the fact that it is not always a single bird but often a flock who join in. Birds communicate in lots of ways that we do not yet fully appreciate.

    Thank you for your invaluable advice on grandparenting. I have a problem with the walking slowly advice as both Isabella and Olivia require me to train in running and fitness techniques before their visits. I'm sat at the PC at this very moment awaiting their arrival with Dad, the door bursting open and the banshee sounds as they warn Grandad and Nana of the day to come. Wish me luck. Here they are.

  13. Hello David,
    You were very lucky to arrive just in time to see this cuckoo before it was let free.
    Fortunately they feed on caterpillars others birds will avoid, nature is so clever and.... so well balanced if.... when don't interfere so much!!
    Those bracket mushrooms are indeed quite fascinating and play an interesting destructive role in recycling vegetation.
    Great post!
    Hugs to you both, enjoy your week :)

  14. Bonjour,

    Incroyable de pouvoir surprendre ce bel oiseau... Le nombre de chenilles est important et il doit se régaler avec !...
    Très belles photos.

    Gros bisous

  15. Hahaha!!!
    Sorry David about the bee eaters, but I was really frustrated not be able to shoot similar pics as in 2013!!!
    And also to observe that the colony is each year smaller because the spanish farmers couldn't care less about the birds. The land owner who owns the bank in which they breed was standing in front of the holes chatting away for 2 hours with 2 other guys and they were mocking us in our tents trying desperately to take pictures of the birds....
    I let you imagine our frustration!! LOL!
    Hugs again :)

  16. I've never been able to photograph a cuckoo and I see a very special cuckoo! The caterpillars are mmoi and sharply photographed :-)