The yellow-billed cuckoo is a nontropical migrant bird that winters in South America and breeds in western North America. It is an insect-eating bird that lives in riparian woodlands, and are becoming increasingly rare in much of the their breeding range west of the Continental Divide. A typically secretive and hard-to-detect bird, mated yellow-billed cuckoos have a distinctive “kowlp” call which is a loud, nonmusical series of notes that slows down and slurs toward the end. They are identified by their yellow beak, white breast feathers, rust colored streaks on their wings, and unique black and white spotting on the underside of their tail feathers.
The Western distinct population segment (DPS) of the yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis) was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2014. Population numbers are yet to be determined in Idaho, but a limited number of rare sightings have been documented within the cottonwood galleries of the Henry’s Fork, South Fork, and main stem of the Snake River in eastern Idaho. Sections of these rivers are currently under consideration for critical habitat designation, one of the first steps in the conservation strategy for ESA listed species. The state of Idaho, through OSC, submitted comments in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical habitat proposal in 2014, as well as the revised version in April of 2020 (Idaho Comments on Revised Critical Habitat 2020). A final critical habitat designation from the Service was released in 2021.
Idaho has a vested interest in yellow-billed cuckoo conservation. OSC will continue to better understand yellow billed cuckoo’s ecological needs while advocating for increased local and national coordination.