Current status of western Yellow-billed Cuckoo along the Sacramento and Feather Rivers, California

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Abstract

To evaluate the current status of the western population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) along the Sacramento and Feather rivers in California' s Sacramento Valley, we conducted extensive call playback surveys in 2012 and 2013. We also quantified the amount and distribution of potential habitat. Our survey transects were randomly located and spatially balanced to sample representative areas of the potential habitat. We estimated that the total area of potential habitat was 8,134 ha along the Sacramento River and 2,052 ha along the Feather River, for a total of 10,186 ha. Large-scale restoration efforts have created potential habitat along both of these rivers. Despite this increase in the amount of habitat, the number of cuckoos we detected was extremely low. There were 8 detection occasions in 2012 and 10 occasions in 2013 on the Sacramento River, in both restored and remnant habitat. We had no detections on the Feather River in either year. We compared our results to 10 historic studies from as far back as 1972 and found that the Yellow-billed Cuckoo had unprecedentedly low numbers in 2010, 2012, and 2013. The current limiting factor for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the Sacramento Valley is likely not the amount of appropriate vegetation, as restoration has created more habitat over the last 30 years. Reasons for the cuckoo decline on the Sacramento and Feather rivers are unclear.

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Dettling, M. D., Seavy, N. E., Howell, C. A., & Gardali, T. (2015). Current status of western Yellow-billed Cuckoo along the Sacramento and Feather Rivers, California. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0125198

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