Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE MANGROVE CUCKOO.
COCCYZUS SENICULUS, Lath.
A few days after my arrival at Key West in the Floridas, early in the month
of May, Major GLASSEL of the United States Army presented me with a specimen of
this bird, which had been killed by one of the soldiers belonging to the
garrison. I had already observed many Cuckoos in the course of my walks through
the tangled woods of that curious island; but as they seemed to be our Common
Yellow-billed species, I passed them without paying much attention to them. The
moment this specimen was presented to me, however, I knew that it was a species
unknown to me, and thought, as I have on many occasions had reason to do, how
vigilant the student of nature ought to be, when placed in a country previously
unvisited by him. The bird was immediately drawn, and I afterwards shot several
others, all precisely corresponding with it.
The habits of the Mangrove Cuckoo I found to be much the same as those of
our two other well known species. Like them, it is fond of sucking the eggs of
all kinds of birds in the absence of their owners, and also feeds on fruits and
various species of insects. It is, however, more vigilant and shy, and does not
extend its migrations northward beyond the eastern capes of the Floridas;
appearing, indeed, to confine itself mostly to the islets covered with
mangroves, among the sombre foliage of which trees it usually builds its nest
and rears its young. It retires southward in the beginning of September,
according to the accounts of it which I received in the country.
The nest is slightly constructed of dry twigs, and is almost flat, nearly
resembling that of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, which I have already described.
The eggs are of the same number and form as those of that species, but somewhat
larger. It raises two broods in the season, and feeds its young on insects
until they are able to go abroad.
The White-headed Pigeon is frequently robbed of its eggs by this plunderer,
and it is alleged by the fishermen and wreckers that it destroys the squabs when
yet very young, but I saw no instance of this barbarous propensity. One which
had been caught in its nest, and which I saw placed in a cage, refused all kinds
of food, and soon died. This, however, proved to me the great affection which
they have towards their eggs. Their flight is much like that of the other
species described by me, perhaps only more rapid and elevated when they are
proceeding to some distant place.
MANGROVE CUCKOO, Coccyzus Seniculus, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 558.
MANGROVE CUCKOO, Coccyzus Seniculus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 390.
Male, 12, 15.
Florida Keys. Common. Migratory.
Bill as long as the head, broad at the base, compressed, slightly arched,
acute; upper mandible carinated above, its margins acute and entire; lower
mandible carinated beneath, acute. Nostrils basal, lateral, linear-elliptical,
half-closed by a membrane. Feet short; tarsus covered with a few large
scutella, which extend around it and meet behind; toes two before, separated;
two behind, one of which is versatile; their under surface broad and flat; claws
slender, compressed, arched.
Plumage soft, blended, slightly glossed. Wings long, the first quill
short, the third and fourth longest and equal; primaries tapering, secondaries
broad and rounded. Tail very long, graduated, of ten feathers, which are broad
Upper mandible brownish-black, lower mandible yellow at the base, blackish
on the margin and at the end. Iris hazel. Feet greyish-blue. The general
colour of the upper parts, including the wing-coverts and two middle
tail-feathers, is light greenish-brown, the head tinged with grey; primary
quills umber-brown; tail-feathers, excepting the two middle ones,
brownish-black, tipped with white, the outer more largely. The lower surface
Length 12 inches, extent of wings 15; bill along the ridge 1, along the
edge 1 1/4; tarsus 1 1/12, longest toe 1 1/4.
The female resembles the male, but is somewhat paler, especially on the
lower surface, which is tinged with grey.
THE SEVEN YEARS APPLE, Catesby, plate 59.
The plant, on a twig of which I have represented the Mangrove Cuckoo, is
found on all the Florida Keys, and at times is seen growing in large patches on
the mud flats that exist between the outer islets and the mainland. The leaves
are thick, glossy above, furred, and of a dull brown colour beneath.