Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Birds of North Carolina: their Distribution and Abundance)
Though it likely nests in all Coastal Plain and Piedmont counties in the state, the yellow-billed cuckoo is not common in the mountains, where it is limited to the lower elevations. In the breeding season, it favors moist forests and edges, whether in swamps, bottomlands, forests along a lakeshore, streamside groves, or in certain pinelands; forests with scattered tall pines and even Spanish moss are favored. In winter, it is found mainly in maritime forests, or in mature pine-hardwood stands, especially where the hardwoods are broadleaf evergreens.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are fairly easy to hear but hard to spot. In summer, start by looking in areas of deciduous forest for infestations of tent caterpillars, as well as outbreaks of cicadas or other large arthropods. Listen for the species’ distinctive, knocking call, which can be given at any time, night or day. Later in summer, listen more for their dove-like cooing, as they give their knocking call much less frequently.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Yellow-billed cuckoos are warm brown above and clean whitish below. Their blackish face mask is accompanied by a yellow eye-ring. In flight, the outer part of the wings flash rufous. From below, the tail has wide white bands and narrower black ones.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (American Bird Conservancy)
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are stealthy hunters, sitting motionless on a hidden perch as they wait for their prey to move—then they pounce. They are among the few birds able to eat tent caterpillars and other hairy caterpillars. During tent caterpillar outbreaks in the East, cuckoos gorge on them, eating as many as 100 at a time. This bird’s croaking call—often sounding on hot summer days before storms—led to its folk name, “rain crow.”