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Photo credit: Greg Lavaty

Yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis) | ESA status: threatened

Yellow-billed cuckoo

The western “distinct population segment” of yellow-billed cuckoos nests in North America west of the Continental Divide. This population is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Yellow-billed cuckoo habitat

Yellow-billed cuckoos depend on healthy native riparian vegetation such as cottonwoods and willows, which provide nesting sites and habitat for the cuckoos’ insect prey.

What are the threats to the yellow-billed cuckoo?

Much of the cuckoo’s riparian habitat has been lost: 90-95 percent in Arizona, 90 percent in New Mexico, and 90-99 percent in California (these three states had the highest recorded historical numbers of breeding pairs). Human activities such as dam-building, water diversion, livestock grazing, and channelization have resulted in loss or degradation of cuckoo habitat. Non-native plants including Russian olive and tamarisk do not provide adequate nesting sites for yellow-billed cuckoos. Climate change and drought will likely further exacerbate continuing habitat loss.

What WildEarth Guardians is doing to protect the yellow-billed cuckoo

WildEarth Guardians’ 2011 legal settlement resulted in Endangered Species Act listing for the yellow-billed cuckoo in 2014. We are now focused on changing water management practices on Western rivers, primarily the Rio Grande, to protect and rejuvenate the mature cottonwood forests the cuckoo depends on for survival. Guardians is also opposing efforts to prematurely delist the cuckoo.