Monday, May 28, 2007

New "heard but not seen" yard bird

(photo by Cindy Mead at Woodsong)

I had long suspected that black billed cuckoos were a part of the local avian fauna, but they aren't the kind of bird to present themselves in full view too often, as in Cindy's excellent photo. I've been using the audio clips at Cornell's All About Birds web site a lot to try and make sense of all the unfamiliar chirps and twitters I've been hearing lately, and I have played the black billed cuckoo's call a few times to try and commit it to memory.

This morning I heard a bird call in the woods that was vaguely familiar. I ran inside to the computer and got on the Cornell site only to find that I didn't have the required downloads to play audio clips here on the home computer. I could hear the "kuk-kuk-kuk" call outside as I waited patiently for the download and setup to complete. Finally, after setting preferences and accepting user agreements, I was able to play the call of the black-billed cuckoo. That was IT! It's amazing, this high-tech, real time birding.

Cuckoos are good to have around; they help to keep the caterpillar numbers in check. But caterpillar eaters or not, I am always thrilled to realize there is way more to the biodiversity of this place than I ever imagined.

Gotta run. I just saw an olive-backed, warbler-looking thing out the window!

7 comments:

Lynne said...

A friend who lives down here on Medicine Lake spotted a yellow-billed cuckoo last week. I've never seen either. It's pretty cool your use of the net and the Cornell website helped you id that song!!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Deb,
I'm glad you got to see and hear this bird. I've never seen either of the Cuckoos that come to Minnesota.
Also glad to hear you're feeling better & well enough to run out at look at the birds! I'm just getting over my cold and I recommend tea & naps (if your household allows them!)

Todd said...

That is way cool and such a coincidence. My wife called me outside this morning to help ID a bird making this weird call way up in the top of our box elder. And it was a black-billed cuckoo. First one we've seen or heard in 5+ years of living here (maybe about 50 miles downstream from you, if Sand Creek flows into the St. Croix).

We've got apple trees chock full of Linden loopers, so I hope he hangs around and eats a few thousand.

Larry said...

Cuckoos can be sneaky-I saw the Yellow-billed with my sister this weekend-Very satisfying to identify a a bird by sound-Isn't it?

Cathy said...

Well? Did you ID the warbler? :0)

Cuckoos are so cool and so hard to locate up there in the foliage. I, too, love the Cornell birdsong recordings.

Deb said...

Lynne- I think I must be just north of the line for yellow billeds. I remember bike rides around Medicine Lake.

RuthieJ- I did the nap thing yesterday. A great thing, when you can do it!

Larry- I've gotten to relax my standards about identifying a bird by song alone. I don't have to see it to know that it makes an unusual call!

Cahty- I think what I saw was an ovenbird, but I later went out to identify a Nashville warbler, a very common species around here, judging by the frequency of calls.

Christa said...

I didn't realize we had cuckoos here in the states. I saw one in Costa Rica and therefore just assumed they're a tropical bird. Are they migrants?

I loved listening to the audio clips on the Cornell site!