CUCKOOS of South America and their Allies

Order Cuculiformes   Family Cuculidae

In addition to cuckoos, the cuckoo family Cuculidae also includes the roadrunners, koels, malkohas, couas, coucals and anis. The coucals and anis are sometimes separated as distinct families. The cuckoos are generally medium sized slender birds. The majority are of the cuculidae family are arboreal, with a sizeable minority that are terrestrial. Most are tropical and the temperate species are migratory. The cuckoos feed on insects, insect larva, as well as fruit. Many species are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other species, but the majority of species raise their own young. Cuckoos are medium sized birds that range in size from 15-63 cm. There is generally little sexual dimorphism in size, but where it exists, it can be either the male or the female that is larger. There are two basic body forms, arboreal species which are slender and have short tarsi, and terrestrial species which are more heavy set and have long tarsi. Almost all species have long tails which are used for steering in terrestrial species and as a rudder during flight in the arboreal species.

Genus Coccycua
The three species of this genus are found in the tropical Americas. They are not brood parasites.

Cuckoo, Ash-colored Coccycua cinerea    Found: South America
The Ash-colored Cuckoo has gray head; brownish-gray back; light gray underparts; red eyes; black bill.
Image by: Claudio Timm - Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil  2) Gustavo Duran - Argentina


Cuckoo, Dwarf  Coccycua pumila  Found: razil, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela
The Dwarf Cuckoo raises its own young. It builds a flimsy stick platform in a small tree.
Image by: 1, 2, 3) Alejandro Tamayo


Cuckoo, Little  Coccycua minuta  Found: Panama, South America
The Little Cuckoo has mainly chestnut-brown plumage; grayish lower-belly; browner tail; white tips to tail; bill yellow; eyes red. The Little Cuckoo raises its own young.
Image by: 1) Len Blumin - Trinidad  2) Carlos Simioni



Genus Coccyzus
These cuckoos generally build their own nest and raise their young, Some species occasionally lay eggs in the nests of others.

Cuckoo, Black-billed  Coccyzus erythropthalmus  Found: The Americas
The Black-billed Cuckoo has black bill; grayish-brown upperparts; white-underparts; red eye-ring.
Similar to: Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Yellow-billed Cuckoo has a black bill above and yellow below; Black-billed Cuckoo bill is all black. Yellow-billed sometimes has a visible yellow eye-ring; Black-billed eye-ring is red. Yellow-billed has more white on the underside of its tail than the Black-billed.
Image by: 1) Big Dipper 2  2) Bob Hall  3) Wolfgang Wander   4) Dave Inman - Pennsylvania  5) Henry McLin - Pennsylvania



Cuckoo, Dark-billed  Coccyzus melacoryphus   Found: South America
The dark-billed Cuckoo has reddish-brown upperparts; black bill; gray head; light brownish-yellow underparts.
Image by: 1, 2) Claudio Timm - Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil  3) PutneyMark


Cuckoo, Gray-capped  Coccyzus lansbergi  Found: Columbia, Peru, Venezuela
The Gray-capped Cuckoo has dark gray head; rufous-yellow underparts.
Image by: Juan Rpo


Cuckoo, Mangrove  Coccyzus minor  Found: south Florida to north Brazil
The Mangrove Cuckoo has brown upperparts, head; buffy underparts; black mask; brown upper-tail; black-and-white under-tail; yellow eye-ring.
Similar to: Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Mangrove Cuckoo is best differentiated from Yellow-billed Cuckoo by its black facial mask and buffy underparts. Both species have black bill above and yellow below. Both have yellow eye-ring.
Image by: 1) New Jersy Birds  2) Rachel Frieze, USFWS - Florida 3) Henry Plank - Saint Martin
   4) Mario Davalos - Dominican Republic   5) birdphotos.com - Costa Rica  6)   Mark Stevens - Antigua



Cuckoo, Pearly-breasted  Coccyzus euleri  Found: South America
The Pearly-breasted Cuckoo has brown upperparts; pearly-whiie underparts; black and yellow bill.
Image by: 1) Carlos Grupilo - Brazil


Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Coccyzus americanus   Found: The Americas
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo brown upperparts, head; brown upper-tail; black-and-white under-tail; yellow bill, especially the lower mandible; yellow eye-ring.
Similar to: Black-billed Cuckoo. Yellow-billed Cuckoo has a black bill above and yellow below; Black-billed Cuckoo bill is all black. Yellow-billed sometimes has a visible yellow eye-ring; Black-billed eye-ring is red. Yellow-billed has more white on the underside of its tail than the Black-billed.
Similar to: Mangrove Cuckoo. Mangrove Cuckoo is best differentiated from Yellow-billed Cuckoo by its black facial mask and buffy underparts. Both species have black bill above and yellow below. Both have yellow eye-ring.
Image by: 1) Seabrooke Leckie  2) Phil Brown - Parker River NWR, Massachuestts 
   3) Mdf - Bruce Peninsula National Park, Canada  4) Dick Daniels - North Carolina  5) Dominic Sherony




Genus Crotophaga
The three ani species live in the tropical Americas. The anis are not brood parasites, but nest communally, the cup nest being built by several pairs in a tree. A number of females lay their eggs in the nest and then share incubation and feeding.

Ani, Greater  Crotophaga major  Found: South America
The Greater Ani has black plumage with blue gloss; massive ridged black bill; white eyes.
Similar to: Groove-billed Ani. Greater Ani has white eye; Groove-billed Ani has black eyes.
Image by: 1) Dominic Sherony  2) Arthur Chapman  3) Dick Daniels - Soberania National Park, Panama


Ani, Groove-billed  Crotophaga sulcirostris  Found: North America (Texas), Central and South America
The Groove-billed Ani has a heavily grooved gray bill; black plumage; shaggy neck; black eyes.
Similar to: Greater Ani. Greater Ani has white eye; Groove-billed Ani has black eyes.
Similar to: Smooth-billed Ani. Groove-billed Ani has narrow grooves in the bill, Smooth-billed does not.
Image by: 1) Jerry Oldenettel - Mexico  2) Hans Hillewaert  - Costa Rica  3) Pablo Leautard - Mexico


Ani, Smooth-billed Crotophaga ani   Found: North America (Florida), Central and South America
The Smooth-billed Ani has a lightly grooved gray bill; black plumage; shaggy neck; black eyes.
Similar to: Groove-billed Ani. Groove-billed Ani has narrow grooves in the bill, Smooth-billed does not.
Image by:  1, 2) Dick Daniels - Royal Palm Reserve, Jamaica  3)  Dick - Puerto Rico  4) Dick - Pedasi, Panama



Genus Dromococcyx
They have strikingly graduated tails, and are among the few cuckoos of the Americas that are brood parasites (the only other is the Striped Cuckoo).

Cuckoo, Pheasant  Dromococcyx phasianellus  Found: Mexico, Central America, South America
The Pheasant Cuckoo has brown upperparts; paler underparts. They are brood parasitic.
Similar to: Pavonine Cuckoo. Pavonine has buff throat, upper-breast; Pheasant Cuckoo has pale throat, upper-breast.
Image by: 1) Dominic Sherony - Panama  2) Jorge Montejo


Cuckoo, Pavonine  Dromococcyx pavoninus  Found: South America
The Pavonine Cuckoo has dark-brown upperparts; paler underparts; rusty brown head; buff supercilium, throat, upper-breast; white eye-ring. They are brood parasitic.
Similar to: Pheasant Cuckoo. Pavonine has buff throat, upper-breast; Pheasant Cuckoo has pale throat, upper-breast.
Image by: 1, 2, 3) Dario Sanches - Brazil



Genus Guira - 1 species

Cuckoo, Guira  Guira guira  Found: South America
The Guira Cuckoo has dark brown upperparts, tail; whitish-buff underparts, rump. shaggy neck; orange-rufous crest; bare yellow skin around the eye; orange-yellow bill.
Image by:  1) Sandy Cole - National Aviary  2) Dick Daniels - National Aviary   3, 6) Dario Sanches - Brazil     4) dFaulder - Buenos Aires, Argentina  5) Dick - the Washington National Zoo  7) Claudio Timm - Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil  8) Cristiano Crolle - Esteros del Iberà, Argentina



Genus Morococcyx - 1 species

Cuckoo, Lesser Ground-  Morococcyx erythropygus  Found: Mexico, Central America
The Lesser Ground-Cuckoo has dull brown upperparts; rufous tips to the feathers and uppertail coverts; ornate pattern on the face with a black mask on sides of face; cinnamon underparts.
Image by: 1, 2) Dominic Sherony - Mexico  3) Francesco Veronesi - Mexico



Genus Neomorphus
These neotropical cuckoos are not breed parasitic, they raise their own young. They are poorly known and rarely encountered.

Cuckoo, Banded Ground-  Neomorphus radiolosus  Found: northwest Ecuador, southwest Columbia
The Banded Ground-Cuckoo follows swans of army ants, but is hard to find as it likes to sit very still in dense vegitation. It has banded, scaly-looking underparts.
Image by: 1) Joseph Smit  2) Glenn Bartley - Ecuador


Cuckoo, Red-billed ground-  Neomorphus pucheranii  Found: Brazil, Columbia, Peru
The Red-billed Ground-Cuckoo has red bill; black crown; cinnamon-buff belly.
Image by: 1) Francis Casteinau  2) W Endo


Cuckoo, Rufous-vented Ground-  Neomorphus geoffroyi  Found: Costa Rica, Panama, South America
The Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo has dark upperparts with greenish, bluish, or purplish iridiscence; brown head with greenish-brown crest; whitish to pale tan underparts; long tail, sturdy legs.
Image by: 1) Greg Kanies- Panama  2) Dick Culbert - Argentina


Cuckoo, Rufous-winged Ground-  Neomorphus rufipennis  Found: northeast South America
The Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo has dark upperparts with rufous wings; dark throat; pale underparts with scales; long tail, sturdy legs.
Image by: 1) Bernard Quaritch  2) Joseph Wolf 


Genus Piaya
These species have relatively slight bodies and long tails. They are not brood parasitic, that is, they raise their own young.

Cuckoo, Squirrel  Piaya cayana  Found: South America
The Squirrel Cuckoo has a very long tail; chestnut upperparts, head; gray upper breast; blackish belly; yellow bill; red eyes.
Image by: 1) Dario Sanches - Brazil  2) Greg Kanies - Coronado, Panama  3) Cristiano Crolle - Esteros del Iberà, Argentina


Cuckoo, Black-bellied  Piaya melanogaster  Found; South America
The Black-bellied Cuckoo has a black belly; red bill; gray crown; blue-and-yellow eye-ring.
Image by: 1) Amy McAndrews - Brazil  2) Carol Foil - Columbia  3) Claudio Timm



Genus Tapera - 1 species

Cuckoo, Striped Tapera naevia  Found: Central and South America
The Striped Cuckoo has gray-brown upperparts, streaked with black and bufff; chestnut crest; pale supercilium; off-white underparts. It is brood parasitic.
Image by: Claudio Timm 









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