While eating lunch outside in the parking area under the canopy of trees, we caught sight of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo moving along a tree branch. Normally this species is difficult to spot for an extended period of time, so we kept watching. The bird eyed a small, dead twig and deftly snapped it from the larger branch. With the twig in its bill, the cuckoo hopped its way through a network of branches and vines to a spot where another cuckoo waited. The first bird passed the twig to the second bird and resumed its search for another twig. The bird that received the twig began to work the twig into a loose network of twigs at its feet. Our thought was, "Are these birds making a nest in late August? That's just cuckoo!" As it turns out, it seems it is just cuckoos being cuckoos.
Nests sites are "generally groves of broad-leafed deciduous hardwoods with thick bushes, vines, or hedgerows providing dense foliage within 10 m of ground,"1 which describes (dense vines) the site in which the pair was seen in our parking area. Although the construction of a nest at this late date is not a guarantee of a second clutch, cuckoos in the central and eastern ranges of the United States may double-brood with the second clutch beginning between mid-August and mid-Sep.2
We'll keep an eye on the area and see if our Yellow-billed Cuckoos do indeed start a second clutch.
1 1980. Feeding and nesting behavior of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the Sacramento Valley. Wildl. Manage. Admin. Rep. 802. Calif. Dept. Fish and Wildlife, Sacramento.
2Hughes, Janice M. 1999. Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/418
Images by Mark Musselman