Bird of the Week, August 24, 2012
Bay-breasted Cuckoo

Bay-breasted Cuckoo by Cesar Abrill



This large cuckoo has a big, curved bill and is gray above with a reddish-brown wing patch, throat, and breast. Like other cuckoos, it skulks in vegetation and is best located by its staccato call. It feeds primarily on lizards and insects; the cuckoo’s short nesting season appears to coincide with the onset of the wet season and the abundance of insects, particularly cicadas, produced by the rains.


The Bay-breasted Cuckoo suffered a drastic decline in range and numbers during the 20th Century due to rampant deforestation for agriculture, grazing, and charcoal production. Hunting for food and medicinal properties that the bird supposedly possesses is also a factor in its decline.


The species occurs in four protected areas in the Dominican Republic, with its stronghold likely Reserva Biologica Loma Charco Azul. The population is still declining, as inadequate protected area enforcement allows residents to continue to clear wood, graze cattle, or otherwise convert the forests where the bird is found.


ABC, with the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Wings, and the Jeniam Foundation, is taking actions to improve the conservation of the Bay-breasted Cuckoo. New park guards and equipment at Loma Charco Azul will help protect park habitat, and new tourism infrastructure is now being built to facilitate bird tourism and improve economic opportunities for local communities. Future surveys, particularly in areas with remaining forest, are needed to better understand the species’ distribution and habitat needs.


Photo by Cesar Abrill; Range Map, ABC