Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2011-04

Common name:

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Scientific name: Coccyzus americanus
Date: July 13, 2010
Time: 12:00
Length of time observed: 90 minutes analyzing photographs
Number: 1
Sex: ?
Location: Fish Springs NWR
County: Juab
Distance to bird: In hand
Optical equipment: NONE
Light Conditions:  
Description:        Size of bird: Length & wingspan similar to Mourning Dove
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Slim & long-tailed
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Brown dorsal & white ventral with black/white contrast on underside of long tail
(Description:)            Bill Type: stout and downward curved
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This bird was found dead & desiccated near the east side of the refuge bunkhouse.  It is hard to judge how long the bird was there, a conservative estimate is <2 months but was likely more recent.

The bird has a large, strong, and downward-curved bill. The upper mandible was black while the lower mandible was bicolored-mostly yellow (~90%) with a small black tip (see attached photo).

The feathers on the head, neck, nape, back and top of tail were brown. The feathers of the breast, belly, sides, and undertail coverts were white.  The feathers on the wing underside were mostly white near the body, grading to rufous/brown at primaries. The inner web of the primaries show significant amount of rufous color (see photograph of spread primaries). The underside of rectrices were mostly black with large, distinct white spots at the tips, and extensive white on outer edge of r3-r5, (see photographs). The color pattern of r3-r5 are consistent with either AHY (After Hatch Year) or ASY (After Second Year) age classes.

The legs were black.

Song or call & method of delivery: None
Behavior: None
Habitat: The FSNWR headquarters is planted with trees/shrubs in the midst of an expansive greasewood/sage/juniper habitat. This habitat is a proven migrating bird trap.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The black/white pattern of the outer rectrices r3-r5 (r3 shown at my thumb) is distinctive for Yellow-billed Cuckoo and quite different for both Bl.-billed & Mangrove Cuckoo for this age class (compare Figures 32, 34, and 35 in Pyle).

From Bl.-billed Cuckoo by presence of yellow lower mandible, more extensive rufous in inner web of primary feathers, larger white spots on rectrices tips, and extensive white on outer margin of rectrices r3-r5.

From Mangrove Cuckoo by range and r3-r5 with white on outer edge (Mangrove shows no white on edge of these rectrices), white belly to undertail coverts (not the buffy wash of Mangrove) and extensive rufous in web of primaries (Mangrove Cuckoo lacks the extensive rufous).
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've observed & heard many Yellow-billed & Black-billed cuckoos in Minnesota/Wisconsin/Illinois/New York.
References consulted: Identification Guide to North American Birds; pp 54-58 (Peter Pyle) & Sibley Guide.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Jack Skalicky
Observer's address: 511 First Avenue Suite 503 Salt Lake City, UT 84103
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: John Dougherty (Colorado) & Terry Sadler
Date prepared: July 20, 2010 Started & Completed (photographs added & some details from photos added to description) on January 16, 2011
Additional material: Photos and Photocopy of Peter Pyle guide (pp 54-59)
Additional_Comments: This report was primarily written on July 20, 2010. The original photographs from July were lost, fortunately I kept the dessicated bird in my car trunk and Terry Sadler photographed the bird for me this month (Jan, 2011).