The Mangrove and the Yellow-billed have significant similarities. So, it can be confusing for bird folks in Mangrove Cuckoo territory when the long-distance migrant Yellow-billed Cuckoos pass through there in April each year. I took a photo of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on an April morning near Fort Island Beach in Crystal River, Florida. I was there that morning because of a weather change overnight over the Gulf of Mexico. As it turned out, a local birder and friend, Paul Smyth, was also aware of the weather change. We bumped into each other and teamed up.
Here's what happened to the weather. Southerly winds the previous evening at the north shore of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico had caused thousands, maybe millions, of migratory birds to commence their non-stop flight to the shores of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. But in the middle of their epoch flights, a weather change caused winds to shift and come from the northwest instead. As there are no islands out in the middle of the Gulf, most were forced to divert to the east to shore points along the west coast of Florida in order to avoid exhaustion and subsequent drowning. This much-anticipated event is known to bird folks as a fallout. Among a number of migrant species we saw that morning was the Yellow-billed Cuckoo that you have just seen. It rested as shown from the time we arrived until after we left. The next mailing will feature other displaced migrant species that I was able to photograph that morning.
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are rated as common but are in significant decline. Black-billed Cuckoos are uncommon and are also in decline. I never had a good look at a Black-billed until this summer. One briefly visited our hedgerow one day in northern New York State. The photo was taken at some distance through a bay window.
Our cuckoos are assumed by some to be parasitic because of their more famous cousin in Europe. Over there, the Common Cuckoo lays its eggs in other birds' nests, much as cowbirds do here. The facts are that the Yellow-billed does not do that. The Black-billed does it only occasionally.
Incidentally, the Common Cuckoo of Europe utters the call that inspired clock makers over there to create the cuckoo clock.