Survey Strategies and Occupancy Modeling of Black- and Yellow-Billed Cuckoos in North Eastern Illinois

Claire A. Johnson, T.J. Benson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Black-billed Cuckoos (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) experienced a range wide 68% population decline over the last several decades and are listed as threatened in Illinois, while Yellow-billed Cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus) experienced up to a 67% decline. However, cuckoos are patchily distributed and hard to detect, so population size and trend estimates are not well supported and habitat requirements are poorly understood. We performed 2-3 replicate passive and call-broadcast surveys for cuckoos at 41 sites throughout North Eastern Illinois. We used occupancy modeling to investigate how habitat and landscape covariates influence occupancy and to establish estimates of detection probability using different survey types. Black- and Yellow-billed Cuckoos were detected at 53% and 60% of the sites, respectively, and were 4.5 times more likely to occur at the same site compared to being found alone. However, there was no significant relationship within sites. Detection rate for both species increased significantly when using call-broadcast compared to passive surveys but varied across the season and between species. The pattern of co-occurrence may indicate that both cuckoos seek out similar habitat at a site level while occupying different niche spaces within a site. Increasing detection using call broadcast, and timing surveys to accurately establish breeding bird occupancy, is an important step towards improving population size and trend estimates and being able to target sites for management or protection, especially for the state threatened Black-billed Cuckoo.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMidwest Fish and Wildlife Conference 2020
StatePublished - 2020


  • INHS


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