Where's The Cocoa Puffs?

Breaking with tradition for a bit here and featuring a bird that was taken not a year ago, not a month ago, not even a week ago… rather YESTERDAY!  Do not get accustomed to this much freshness.  The reason for such a short shot to post time is purely due to excitement over the discovery of a new bird.  Kind of funny after just traveling 2,000 miles to get a new bird I end up finding one in my own backyard.  Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the latest addition to my Bird Life List.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot in Brimfield. IL

Pretty cool eh!?!  Yesterday I was mowing the bottoms of our property – quite the chore seeing as how neglect allowed the weeds to get above my knees.  As a Cat guy, I have to give credit to Deere for making some fine tractors back in the day – point the 316 at the weeds and let it clear the path (note, probably wouldn’t do it with their newer models).   Most of the mowing was over and I had stopped to chainsaw some fallen trees when an intriguing sound caught my attention.  Sounded like a Cuck Cuck Cuck Cuck in fairly rapid fire.  A few seconds later I hear it again, and again and again.  Mower had just turned into Birder.  It took a few minutes to locate the source, but eventually spotted this bird bouncing around in the thick trees.

Break in posting – have to go deal with a dead baby Downy Woodpecker on our lawn furniture – poor little guy  — back to post

Odd thing is the bird didn’t seem to really be hiding from me.  It would looks towards me, make its call and then hop to a branch a little further away.  I’d track it to the new location and it would make its call and hop to a branch a little further away… this continued to a point about a 100 to 150 feet away when I lost it – no sight, no sound.  Bummed that I didn’t have a camera, went back to my ATV to get back to work on the fallen trees.  What turned out to be luck for me, I had forgotten my chainsaw pants at the house so took the ATV back up for them (I never use the chainsaw by myself unless I have those – recommend you do the same – already have horrid stories about what happens when you cut yourself bad when you are alone).  While up there, I went ahead and grabbed my old camera just in case it showed up again.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot in Brimfield. IL

As you can tell, it showed back up again.  I walked back to the original sighting location, this time with the camera.  After a few minutes the rapid cucking was heard again.  There it was looking at me and waving its tail.  Just like before it would make its call, and hop to another branch a little further away.  I followed again, but this time trying to take shots whenever the field of vision was clear.  Shot, maneuver around, shot, maneuver around, shot – next thing I know I’m about where I lost the bird the first time and yes, it went silent again.  Patterns in wildlife are always an interesting study.  On a hunch I went back to the original location and sure enough it repeated the exact same procedure – it was purposely leading me away from that spot!  I was able to get a few more shots, but eventually the call to work grew too loud forcing me to put the camera down and picked up the chainsaw.  I didn’t really hear it again, but the saw and the weed trimmer was drowning out most of the sounds anyway.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot in Brimfield. IL

I was pretty sure I didn’t have this bird seeing as how it appears to be a cross between a Vireo and Thrasher (with a Flicker sounding call).  Excited about this I tried to call my brother while tracking it down so he could at least help me identify the sound being sans recording app.  No luck getting him then, but we eventually ID’d this cool looking bird as a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.  The yellow curved bill and the six distinct spots on the tail made for an easy verification.  I didn’t even know these birds were in Illinois, much less in my own backyard.  According to Cornell’s website, they hang around areas with an abundance of caterpillars.  Haven’t really noticed many of those, but maybe we are due for a big wave.  Cornell also mentions that if they are threatened, nesting pairs of Yellow-billed Cuckoos put on a “distraction display” to lure predators away from the nest site.   One of the pair will hop to a visible perch, opening its wings and pumping its tail. As you probably figured out, this is EXACTLY what it was doing to me – luring me away.  Hoping this means there is a nesting pair down there!  Another interesting fact is this is the first bird I’ve researched that lay their eggs over a period up to 5 days.  It was noted, that the youngest bird is in jeopardy of being tossed from the nest when food is in short supply – apparently unlike the Greater Roadrunner, they do not simply feed the youngest to the older siblings – as the baby of the family I  do not appreciate this behavior ONE BIT!

That’s all for now, I have some presentations to crank out for work.  Was so excited about the new find I had to take the time to get it posted.  Hope you enjoyed this new addition to my list.


5 comments on “Where's The Cocoa Puffs?

  1. SkidMarks

    So wait, you live in the Peoria area and haven’t noticed an abundance of Caterpillars….? Heheh 🙂 (I’d insert an emoticon here but don’t think WordPress allows that… or does it? Let me try: )

  2. Ron

    I was also shocked that this bird would be in this area! I had never heard of a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo much less ever seen one. What a gorgeous tail! I’ll have to sneak over to your house one day when you are at work and try to find it. Wait, forget I said that.

    Oddly enough, I had just sent Brian a book review from the Wall Street Journal on Cuckoos in Europe, which like Cowbirds simply place their eggs in the nests of other birds:


    The Cuckoos time their eggs among nests so theirs hatch first. When it hatches, the hatchling hefts up each other egg one by one onto a depression in its back, walks to the edge of the nest, and tips it out. If another egg hatches before its finished, it does the same thing to the baby bird. This is less of a habit amongst American Cuckoos, who will more often build nests of twigs. Since Brian hates Cowbirds for dropping their eggs in other nest, I would have thought he would have spurned even this American version.

    Odd that the birds on Cuckoo clocks look nothing like a Cuckoo–I would have thought Cuckoos to be small songbirds.

    I read that these are also called Raincrows because of the belief that they start singing before thunderstorms (which hit Peoria big-time today).

    Oh, and by the way, I believe that to be included in the species count the birds have to be posted in order. So I guess all birds that were previously photographed but not yet posted are now ineligible for the count, which would really be a shame if there were any in that category.

    “According to Cornell’s website, they hang around areas with an abundance of caterpillars.”

    I believe the c was capitalized in that sentence.

    Congratulations on a truly unique find! I now have a mission.


  3. Ron

    Hmm, SkidMarks slid in ahead of me with that joke while I was writing my post… How embarrassing.


  4. admin

    WordPress did indeed allow an emoticon much to my dissatisfaction (ha). I have to admit, I didn’t make the connection at ALL to the area and Caterpillars – how sad. Unfortunately, the bright yellow ones can be a little tough on the bills!

  5. admin

    Wow, I think Ron’s comment is longer than my post! I have sensors and cameras all over my lot so I will be notified the instant you attempt to steal my precious bird. If you do, pay no heed to the targets strategically located about the property those are for the Coyotes.. yep, the Coyotes…

    I can confirm you did just send me an article about the Cuckoo – which I might add shed a very dark light on those European versions – what is it with these parental slackers? I can’t imagine this is how it started out with these birds … hey, look at this egg that just came out of me .. I know, let’s go put it over in that pre-made nest and let that other bird raise it. Done, now let’s go for a night on the town. Trust me, if the feathering on this bird wasn’t so cool I’d have it right there alongside the Cowbird.

    To be honest, for most of my life I simply thought you were Cuckoo to own a noisy clock – I’m constantly turning them off whenever I’m somewhere it impedes my sleep (Mom still accuses me of breaking here mantle clock but in truth I am innocent on that one)

    Holy crap it did storm the day after I saw it. As a well owner it would be shrewd move to get met about 30 of these birds and get them to sing their little hearts out – a lot cheaper than digging a new well.

    I referred back to the official birding rules (previous post) and was not able to locate any rule referring to posting order. As a result, I shall proudly count not only this bird but the 60 to 70 still in the queue (worried !?!)

    Sure enough, Skids beat you to your joke – although this means TWO people thought of this before I did – ugh

    Thanks for the long comment – can’t wait to get down there and see if it is still hanging around (fingers crossed)

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