Squirrel Cuckoo – common but beautiful

The Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana) was in the garden again today, in mist and rain. The first time I saw one was in Padilla, northern Mexico, in Tamaulipas State, in June of 1985. Padilla is where the Mexican liberator and Emperor Agustín de Iturbide was executed by firing squad in 1823. His reign as Emperor lasted less than one year.

This was of course long before the creation of the huge Vicente Guerrero Dam (1970). I often made the long drive from Dallas, Texas, to get to the Reserva de la Biósfera El Cielo, south of the state capital of Ciudad Victoria. I miss Mexico so very much. On the banks of this lake on my very first drive I mistook my first Squirrel Cuckoo for, you guessed it, a squirrel! This common confusion is caused by its rufous body and long tail, plus its habit of creeping along branches. Here’s a beautiful photo taken at Paraíso, an hour’s drive from here:

Cuckoo, Squirrel, Paraiso (1)

John Beer’s photo captures this Squirrel Cuckoo in typical posture, tail aligned with branch

This bird often betrays its presence with a loud ‘chick…..weeer!’ call. I often think that it’s a little similar to the call of a Great Kiskadee but with a slightly longer pause between the two notes. It loves to eat caterpillars. I cannot find it in the garden every day, but when it does arrive it tends to stay for a few days. Today it brightened up my drizzly day of garden work.

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