Cocos Cuckoo Coccyzus ferrugineus

Javier Tenorio Brenes
Version: 2.0 — Published October 22, 2020

Diet and Foraging

Welcome to Birds of the World!

You are currently viewing one of the free accounts available in our complimentary tour of Birds of the World. In this courtesy review, you can access all the life history articles and the multimedia galleries associated with this account.

For complete access to all accounts, a subscription is required.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in

Diet and Foraging

Cocos Cuckoo has a special preference for the larvae (caterpillars) of Cocytius antaeus (a sphinx moth, Sphingidae) and Historis odius (a butterfly, Nymphalidae) (1). During the breeding season the juveniles are fed mainly fed crickets and cockroaches (1). In recent studies, they have been seen hunting insects at ground level through flight and sallies (Tenorio et al., in press). Cocos Cuckoos also consume lizards (Anolis towsendii, endemic of the island and the only Anolis described so far on the island; 15).

The foraging techniques of Cocos Cuckoo vary somewhat, depending upon the plant community (Tenorio et al., in press). In the communities along the bay, it forages mainly in the understory looking for exposed prey both on the ground and in tangles; it also occasionally forages on the leaflets of the palms Cocos nucifera and Euterpe precatoria var. longevaginata (both, Arecaceae) on the beach. In forest clearings and in open areas it makes short flights and sallies at ground level from an exposed perch to hunt insects in flight. In the other plant communities it forages almost entirely in Guzmania sanguinea (Bromeliaceae) on mature trees, mostly of the endemic species of the island Sacoglottis holdridgei (Humiriaceae), or it takes advantage of exposed prey in the leaves of Annona glabra (Anonaceae) and Cecropia pittieri (Urticaceae).


Main Foods Taken

Insectivorous; see Diet.

Microhabitat for foraging

In the Bay Community it forages mainly in the Majagual understory (Talipariti tiliaceum var. pernambucense, Malvaceae), capturing arthropod prey both on the ground, where prey is taken with a sally-pounce, and in tangles (1). It occasionally forages on the beach, searching the leaflets of Cocos nucifera and Euterpe precatoria var. longevaginata (Asteraceae) for crickets and cockroaches. In forest clearings and open areas, it sometimes makes sallies at ground level from an exposed perch to hunt insects and small flies in flight. In other plant communities, it forages in bromeliads (Guzmania sanguinea, Bromeliaceae) on mature trees (primarily in the dominant tree on the island, Sacoglottis holdridgei Humiriaceae), or it takes advantage of prey (caterpillars) exposed in the leaves of Annona glabra (Anonaceae) and Cecropia pittieri (Urticaceae).

Food capture and Consumption

Often remains stationary for several minutes, scanning the vegetation, before moving slowly and silently through the vegetation.

Cocos Cuckoo is most active in the morning (before noon; 1). Feeding and foraging represent 20% of the total daily time budget (1). During foraging bouts, adults search intensively for food such as large invertebrates. Prey is captured with gleans from vegetation or, occasionally, with short short flights and sallies at ground level in open areas.

When foraging among bromeliads, hops and jumps along limbs, scrutinizing individual bromeliads closely until it finds prey. Sometimes uses the bill to strip and discard some leaves of the bromeliad, or to remove twigs and dried leaves that have accumulated in the bromeliad, to clear the area and make it easier to search for prey. Sometimes it pecks branches to find hidden prey or captures prey in the air with sallies. After capturing a caterpillar, it rubs or scrapes the prey against a surface, possibly to remove unwanted substances or stinging hairs before ingesting. Crickets and cockroaches are beaten (not rubbed) against a substrate, and also may be shaken. For more details on the techniques of manipulation and handling of prey see (Tenorio et al., in press).


Major Food Items

Cocos Cuckoo is insectivorous. It consumes mostly insects, including large ones such as caterpillars of sphingid moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera), and crickets, cockroaches, and cicadas (2, 1). It shows a special preference for the caterpillars of Cocytius antaeus (a sphinx moth, Sphingidae) and of Historis odius (a butterfly, Nymphalidae) (1). The juveniles are mostly fed cockroaches and crickets (1). Birds sometimes hunt flies (Diptera) at ground level. At least occasionally also consumes lizards (Anolis towsendii) (6).

Recommended Citation

Tenorio Brenes, J. (2020). Cocos Cuckoo (Coccyzus ferrugineus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (T. S. Schulenberg, S. M. Billerman, and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.coccuc1.02