Cuckoos for Riparian Forests
I watched it devour a whole nest of tent caterpillars. Yellow-billed Cuckoos, we need a lot more of them – they prefer to eat hairy caterpillars like the eastern tent caterpillar that defoliate trees. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Coccyzus americanus, sometimes called the rain crow, nests and forages in the riparian forests along our part of the Middle River.
Not many birds eat hairy caterpillars. Yellow-billed Cuckoos prefer them. The eastern tent caterpillar, native to North America is hairy and prefers to lay eggs and build silken nests in native, black cherry trees. During the heat of the day, the caterpillars hide and rest within their silken nest. At night or early morning when it is cool, they come out and consume the host tree’s leaves, often defoliating the entire tree.
Cuckoos swoop in during the day, rip the nest open and devour the resting caterpillars.
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are about the size of a Blue Jay with a long, banded tail. They are difficult to see because they remain so still for long periods of time. They have a distinct call, however; that is unmistakable – kuk, kuk, kuk, kuk, keow.