Cuckoos

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus
Yellow-billed Cuckoos typically arrive the first week of April and are more abundant the last two weeks of the month when they really start arriving in higher numbers; they also tend to be a little more vocal then and thus easier to find. That time of year, they can be found along the fairway trails on Fort George Island and around Kingsley Plantation, as well as Reddie Point Preserve, Sheffield Regional Park, Cedar Point Preserve, Theodore Roosevelt, and Seaton Creek Historic Preserve.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos breed in the deciduous areas of all those locations and can be found or heard throughout the summer. Sam Grimes (1945) studied their nesting habits extensively and noted that they nest primarily in “blackjack oak, water oak, black gum, wax myrtle, and buttonwood”, laying no more than three eggs in a clutch. In late July, they are almost obnoxiously vocal about two miles back on the service road at Seaton Creek Historic Preserve. They are a species that departs late in the fall, and they can often be found into the second week of November. The latest record I’m aware of is from 25 November 1973 in south Jacksonville (Cocke).

Black-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus erythropthalmus
There are seven known Duval County reports of Black-billed Cuckoo. The first is from the “Sunbeam” area on 10 August 1888 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), and the second is from 29 April 1933 where Sam Grimes (1945) wrote: “I was afforded an exceptionally good view of the bird as I sat hidden in a clump of bushes waiting for a white-eyed vireo to return to its nest, on which I had my camera focused. The black-bill [sic] came down into a wax myrtle only a few feet above my head. The red eye-ring and dark lower mandible were clearly noted.”

The third report comes from the Dinsmore area of Duval County on 2 November 1968 and the fourth was noted on 14 November 1968. Atherton & Atherton (1988) noted a site report of one on 6 August 1987. In the late nineties, Roger Clark observed one along the loop trail at end of Cedar Point Road on 19 April 1998. There hadn’t been a report until 21 April 2020, when one was photographed in the Mandarin area.

It’s worth noting that the spring reports are all bunched around the third week of April, but the species should not be expected in any year here.

Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
There are three observations of Smooth-billed Ani in county history, the first two coming from 1966. Sam Grimes reported three birds “studied at close range at Jacksonville Beach” on 29 October 1966, and two (presumably the same birds) were noted again on 5 November 1966 (Stevenson, 1967, p. 24).

On 3 December 2018, Sue Oosterveen found one in the north parking lot area at Little Talbot Island State Park. The bird attracted quite a lot of attention, which unfortunately led to quite poor behavior on the part of the birdwatchers…people were persistently using audio playback to call the bird up and were noted trampling through the dunes to locate it. Nonetheless, the Ani was seen fairly reliably through at least 11 February 2019. It’s worth noting that another Ani was recorded in St. Johns County in mid-December 2018 at Guana, suggesting there was some kind of dispersal / movement of the species during the fall season.

Updated 12 Feb 2019.

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