By Marilyn and Keith Davis

"Where's Sherlock Holmes when you need him?"

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
       The great detective Sherlock Holmes, could track down any elusive criminal.  We could use his help here in southern Utah to track down the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.   This specie seems headed for extinction.  Changes in habitat both in its breeding and wintering ranges has caused its number to decline rapidly.   So if you choose to go searching for this Cuckoo, you will need more than a pipe and a magnifying glass.  In fact, your equipment will be totally different.  Binoculars, water bottle, bird book, and a great deal of luck.  
       Most birders would like to add the Yellow-billed Cuckoo to their Life List.  When they do, generally it’s by accident, while searching for another specie.  The Yellow-billed Cuckoo hunts quietly, listening  for insects.   Due to this hunting technique, it is extremely hard to detect.  I have birded for 20 years, andcuckoo am still waiting to put one on my Life List.  But, I'll keep right on looking, and hoping to find this elusive bird.  Searching and finding a rarely seen bird is like going prospecting for gold and coming up with a mother load.  
       Many Utah birders saw a Cuckoo along the Provo River Parkway.  Several others have seen them throughout Utah and at Cedar Pockets.  This sleek, elegant Yellow-billed Cuckoo breeds east of the Rocky Mountains.    Finding it takes patience, skill, and luck.   A really cool fact about the Cuckoo is... their young mature at a very fast rate.  They have to because their food supply of caterpillars is only available for a few short weeks.  Around day 6 or 7, the chick’s feathers burst out of their sheaths, and they are completely feathered within two hours, ready to leave the nest when Mom’s ready.   Their yearly diet is hairy caterpillars, insects and larvae, small lizards, frogs, birds' eggs, and small fruits and berries. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are found in woodlands, thickets, and orchards.   They have a rapid, throaty call of ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-kow-kow-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp.  (Who could mistaken that song?)
       Most people love a hunt.  Why not make your hunt the “The Hunt for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo”?  Brenda Rusnell has illustrated another great picture so we might recognize the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  Thank you Brenda. 
       Saturday, November 17, is the Red Cliffs Audubon Field Trip to Quail Creek Reservoir, Grandpa's Pond, and Washington Fields.  Meet at the BLM at 8:00 a.m.  Laura Tomlinson, DWR Wildlife Biologist, will lead the field trip.  If you have questions about this field trip or the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.