Jason Beason of Paonia gave an interesting presentation to the Rotary Club of the North Fork Valley on the yellow-billed cuckoo. Lucky for those of us in the North Fork Valley the elusive bird has been spotted in our area.
Beason is the special monitoring projects coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.
One of the reasons the yellow-billed cuckoo has not been counted during the normal monitoring cycle is that they breed later than other birds. Beason found a nest in late July. Hotchkiss resident Andrea Robinsong has found nests around the 4th of July.
"The historic range of the species used to be all the way up to British Columbia," Beason said. They were seen in that area in the 1920s. "There were reports in Oregon, I think, last year," he said. He said it was not known if the yellow-billed cuckoo had bred in Washington or Oregon since the 1950s.
It is believed there are about 100 to 200 pairs left in California. At one time there was a population of 15,000.
The yellow-billed cuckoo is "pretty rare" in Idaho but has been seen in Nevada and Utah. There is a large population along the Rio Grande in New Mexico and a healthy population in Arizona. Wyoming has very few, he said.
In Colorado, the yellow-billed cuckoo population has not been very large. In the 1950s and 1960s they were observed around Palisade. In the 1980s, a number of yellow-billed cuckoos were spotted in Delta.
"Most of the historical records in Colorado are at the lower elevations," Beason said of cuckoo surveys or counts.
"We don't really know if there were cuckoos before 2003 in the North Fork Valley or if they moved or if they were here and they were not reported," Beason said. Since then, they have been reported by Andrea Robinsong in Hotchkiss, by Beason in Paonia and other residents in the area. They have been seen at the water treatment plant in Hotchkiss and at the former site of the Hotchkiss Fish Hatchery. The cuckoos seem to like Russian olives as habitat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing listing the yellow-billed cuckoo as threatened in the west under the Endangered Species Act. The bird's habitat, threats to the bird, current efforts to protect the bird and its biology are being analyzed by Fish and Wildlife, according to Jim Mimiaga of the Cortez Journal.
For more information on the yellow-billed cuckoo, contact Jason Beason at (970) 310-5117 or email him at