It is not every day that a Yellow-billed Cuckoo decides to cooperate and sit out in the open for pictures.  In fact, the vast majority of birding days go by without Coccyzus americanus making any kind of appearance at all.  So you can imagine my pleasure, then, when I spotted one skulking in some thick brush last week when I was exploring the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the first time last week.  I got my digiscoping rig set up and waited.  And waited. And waited.  The bird moved through the brush and I occasionally tried to get a shot of it that wasn’t too obscured but rarely succeeded.  Then the bird flew to the back side and I had a clear shot at its head through a window in the undergrowth.  I thought that was cool but then the bird flew down to a tangle of vegetation on the ground and just sat there.  In the open.  For nearly a full minute.  Now that is how you want to see a Yellow-billed Cuckoo!

Later, on a second walk around the refuge with Jeff Gordon the bird put in another appearance at even closer range.  We watched it forage amid another tangle and grab a big caterpillar and choke it down.  I got very angry at myself for having put my digiscoping rig away in the car after the first loop around but, really, does it matter?  I mean, look at the shots I got earlier…

With Jeff and without my digiscoping rig, this is the best shot I got:

Always keep your digiscoping rig with you because you never know when a cuckoo will be cooperative!

This post has been submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #166. Go check it out!

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.