Cocos Cuckoo Coccyzus ferrugineus

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


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Cocos Cuckoo uses the midstory and canopy of mature forests with a high leaf density; it usually ranges at least 10 m above the ground, preferring perches more than 20 m high (1).. It shows a preference for sites where Guzmania sanguinea abounds; this epiphytic bromeliad, the only species of bromeliad on Cocos Island, is a favored site for foraging (1; see Diet and Foraging). It also uses habitats dominated by the endemic tree species Cecropia pittieri (Urticaceae) and Sacoglottis holdridgei (Humiriaceae), except in the coastal plant communities that are dominated by Talipariti tiliaceum var. pernambucense (Malvaceae; also called Majagual) (1).

Habitat in Breeding Range

There are seven types of plant community on Isla del Coco: Bay, Coastal Cliff, Riparian, Tropical Rain Forest, Tropical Cloud Forest, Landslide, and Islet Communities (14). Cocos Cuckoo inhabits four different plant communities during the breeding season: bay communities, riparian communities, Tropical Rain Forest, and Tropical Cloud Forest (1). These sites are used by cuckoos depending on the food resource. They are characterized by having abundant Acridids and Lepidopteran larvae that respond positively to the vicinity of rivers and humid habitats.

Bay Communities: At these sites the soil is flooded and the forest is characterized by the dominance of Talipariti tiliaceum var. pernambucense (Malvaceae). In addition, there are scattered trees of Conocarpus erectus, Terminalia catappa (Combretaceae), Erythrina poeppigiana (Fabaceae) and Cecropia pittieri, as well as the palms Cocos nucifera and Euterpe precatoria var. longevaginata (Arecaceae). In this community there is an abundance of Guzmania sanguinea (Bromeliaceae) and vines. During the breeding season, it visits the areas surrounding the houses of the park rangers, where there are Annona glabra (Annonaceae) and Cecropia pittieri; these tree species host the caterpillars of Cocytius antaeus (a sphinx moth, Sphingidae) and of Historis odius (a butterfly, Nymphalidae), both of which are part of its main diet (1; see Diet and Foraging).

Riparian Communities: This type of habitat is dominated by Sacoglottis holdridgei (known locally as Palo de Hierro), the trees of which host many epiphytes, including Guzmania sanguinea (Bromeliaeceae). Scattered trees of Ocotea insularis (Lauraceae), Clusia rosea (Clusiaceae) and Erythrina poeppigiana also are present. There is a diversity of shrubs, mainly Rustia occidentalis (Rubiaceae), Hoffmannia piratarum (Rubiaceae), and Pilea gomeziana (Urticaceae) (1).

Tropical Rain Forest: Sacoglottis holdridgei is the most abundant species not only in this community, but across the entire Island. These trees are covered by a large quantity of bromeliads (Guzmania sanguinea), mosses, and lichens, in which the Cocos Cuckoo forages. In addition, this habitat has a dense midstory, represented mostly by melastomes and tree ferns, and with an abundant quantity of vines (Ipomea spp.); Cocos Cuckoo descends from the canopy to this midstory to forage (1).

Tropical Cloud Forest: This habitat is found in the highest parts of Isla del Coco, above 450 m in elevation. This is a mature forest dominated by Sacoglottis holdridgei, with a canopy that is 30 m tall. The tree fern Cyathea alfonsiana also is abundant and occupies the lower and middle strata of the forest (1).

Habitat in Nonbreeding Range

There are not many differences in habitat use between the breeding and nonbreeding seasons, other than that in the breeding season the cuckoo use mature forest edges, but during the rest of the year it tends to remain in the interior of the forest (1).

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