USGS And Arizona Game And Fish Begin Partnership To Study Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

A secretive bird called the western yellow-billed cuckoo is the focal point of a new partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The western yellow-billed cuckoo occupies habitat in the Southwest that seems more "imperiled with each passing year since the 1970's -- and that habitat is riparian thickets and woodlands,"said Duane Shroufe, director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Shroufe said that although his department knew that the decline of riparian -- or streamside -- habitat could be posing problems for the cuckoo, a lack of resources and funding had prevented the department from being able to adequately address the problem: identifying the cuckoo's specific habitat needs and what should be done about protecting the species.

"Now," said Shroufe, "the USGS has provided funding and expertise that will challenge us and other potential partners to give this species the attention it merits. We applaud the Bureau's leadership and look forward to the improved resource management the project will generate."

Only about 12 inches long and with a bold black and white tail pattern and a yellow bill, this cuckoo is one of a much larger group of birds called neotropical migrants, said USGS bird biologist Mark Sogge. These birds winter in Central and South America, spending the rest of the year in North America. Researchers suspect that the two major factors in the bird's decline are alteration and destruction of the bird's habitat and pesticide use in both Latin America and the United States. As is true with other neotropical species, pesticide use not only can directly cause the death of these birds but also can cause population declines due to thinning of eggshells and decreased availability of insects and other cuckoo prey killed by insecticides.

"Cuckoos aren't very visible to people to begin with," said Sogge. "They are secretive and live in dense-growth habitats. It is easier to overlook the decli

Contact: Pete Comanor
United States Geological Survey

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