First Few Days of Cuckoo Field Work

Alex LamoreauxBird Finding Tips, Bird News, Bird Sightings, Conservation Issues, Field Work, General News and Info, Photography, Research, Science1 Comment

Anna and I arrived in Blythe, California on the 14th and hit the ground running; the morning of the 15th we went to one of our most popular sites for cuckoos, the sites we call CVCA1 and CVCA 2 (CVCA = Cibola Valley Conservation Area). These sites border each other and create a rather large area of mass-planted willows and cottonwoods, favorite trees of the ‘Western’ Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The sites were filled with the sounds of cuckoos! We set up a canopy mist net and within a few minutes, we had captured a cuckoo and put a leg band, colored leg band, and radio transmitter on it, and it was on its way. By the end of the day we ended up catching two more cuckoos! One hung around after we released it and perched in the top of a cottonwood, ‘coo’-calling for a few minutes, which allowed me to get some clear, unobstructed shots of the bird (pictured below).

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - note blue band on left leg and the gold-blue-gold band on it's right leg. There is also a radio transmitter on this bird that can be seen coming off the bird's tail.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - note blue band on left leg and the gold-blue-gold band on it's right leg. There is also a radio transmitter on this bird that can be seen coming off the bird's tail. The pink on this bird's breast is so that in the field, we are able to tell that it is one of our banded birds, even if we cant see the bands. The bands are very difficult to see because cuckoos typically crouch when they perch, covering their legs with their breast feathers. The pink coloration will wash off after a few days. Also note that this bird is missing the outer tail feathers on the left side of its tail, but has them on its right side (the outer tail feathers are black with large white spots.

Yesterday morning, Anna and I radio tracked another cuckoo, we call ‘Fuzzy Jr.’ and were able to get great biangulations on his location throughout the morning. Hopefully we can find his nest by getting enough telemetry data off him over the next few days. By the way, his name is Fuzzy Jr. because he is a bird that returned from last year, when we banded him as a nestling.

This morning, Anna and I went to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge and conducted surveys for cuckoo throughout the mass plantings near the nature trail area. I didn’t have any cuckoos in my survey areas, but Anna made up for it by having at least three, maybe 4, in her area! The birding was great this morning as I was walking to my surveys points, and I was able to see and/or hear 51 species including two species that were new Arizona state-birds for me; Long-billed Dowitcher and Marbled Godwit! I also saw a subadult Peregrine Falcon this morning that I am pretty sure is the same bird I posted photos of yesterday (link). The molt pattern was almost the exact same as the bird I saw yesterday and I was only about 10 or 12 miles south of where the bird was yesterday.

Peregrine Falcon - subadult; this is almost certainly the same bird as I saw yesterday. This photo offers a great look at the upperwing, where you can clearly see the mix of juvenile and adult feathers.

If you are interested in learning more about the Yellow-billed Cuckoo project I am working on, please click this link to Anna’s other blog, where she had written up a nice summary of the project and its purposes. Also, here is a link to the website of the organization I am working for, where they have a brief summary of the project’s purposes and goals. This is my second summer working on the cuckoo project and I am glad to be back here, where I can hopefully help further cuckoo conservation along the Lower Colorado River. Below are some photos from this morning of some of the cool stuff I saw!

White-faced Ibis - juvenile