Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 2, 2014

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Rare Songbird Needs Restoration of Rivers in Arizona, California, Colorado,
Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Following a 2011 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled species nationwide, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the yellow-billed cuckoo under the Endangered Species Act. In August the agency proposed to protect more than 500,000 acres in nine western states as critical habitat for the bird, which is expected to be finalized next year. 

Yellow-billed cuckoo
Photo courtesy Flickr Commons/Seabamirum. This photo is available for media use.

“Yellow-billed cuckoos were once common along rivers all over the West, but because of our poor treatment of western rivers, they’re now found in just a handful of places,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “With just a little more care, we can restore the rivers the cuckoo needs to survive, benefiting not just this unique songbird, but hundreds of other plants and animals and people too.”

The yellow-billed cuckoo — often called the “rain crow” for its habit of singing right before storms — breeds in streamside gallery forests of cottonwood and willow that once thrived along nearly every water body in the West. It has been devastated by dams, livestock grazing, water withdrawals, river channelization and other factors. Once prevalent from the shores of Lake Washington in Seattle to the mouth of the Colorado River, today it survives in small numbers on portions of the Sacramento, Eel and Kern rivers in California; the Colorado, Gila, Verde and San Pedro rivers in Arizona; the Gila and Rio Grande rivers in New Mexico; and scattered locations in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming and Utah.

“The petition to protect yellow-billed cuckoos was the first I ever worked on, back in 1998,” said Greenwald. “I had no idea then that getting protection for this severely imperiled songbird would take 16 years, but I’m glad it finally has a great chance of recovering.”

A striking bird with a long tail with flashy white markings, the cuckoo is one of the few species that can eat spiny caterpillars such as tent caterpillars.

In 2011 the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service reached a legal settlement to speed protection decisions for all the species on the candidate waiting list as of 2010, as well as a host of other species previously petitioned for protection. To date 138 plants and animals have received protection as a result of the Center’s 2011 agreement, and 11 more have been proposed for protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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