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Mangrove Cuckoo Life History


ForestsIn Florida, Mangrove Cuckoos mainly use black mangrove and red mangrove, as well as beach scrub and tropical hardwood hammocks. Outside the United States, they live in scrubby lowlands, orchards, gardens, swamp forests, rainforest, cloudforest, and various West Indian habitats that grow on limestone, including coppice and taller dry forest. They frequent disturbed habitats and second-growth areas, which have an abundance of prey such as large insects and small lizards. Back to top


Small Animals

Mangrove Cuckoos have a varied diet that includes insects and larvae, spiders, frogs, lizards, eggs, nestlings, and fruit. Most of their feeding is in the tree canopy, where they peer around slowly, watching for caterpillars and other prey, then move to another perch to repeat the process. When they detect prey, they hop or fly quickly to the spot to pick it from the vegetation. However, they also sometimes forage on the ground or, rarely, in the open. In dry seasons, when many trees lose their leaves and prey is easier to see, they hunt small lizards. They swallow smaller prey items whole and beat larger prey against a branch, sometimes removing legs and wings before consuming. Prey includes caterpillars, butterflies, weevils, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, walking-sticks, mantises, cicadas, flies, spiders, snails, tree frogs, and lizards (especially anoles). Like other cuckoos, they are able to eat hairy caterpillars, which other birds avoid.

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Nest Placement

TreeNests are set along a branch or in the fork of a tree, often in an area of very dense or thorny vegetation, 4–10 feet above the ground and often near or over water.

Nest Description

The nest is a sloppy looking flat platform of twigs, sometimes lined with bits of plant material. Nests average about 7.9 inches across and 2.6 inches tall, with an interior depression about 3.9 inches across and 1.2 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-4 eggs
Egg Description:Pale bluish green fading to light greenish yellow, unmarked.
Condition at Hatching:Unknown, but probably like other cuckoos: helpless, but alert and active within minutes of hatching, with shiny black skin and no down.
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Foliage GleanerMale Mangrove Cuckoos begin to sing in early spring, claiming territories and advertising for females. A receptive female replies, and the male flies to her, lands on her back, and presents her with a caterpillar or spider. This courtship feeding is very similar to that of Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Even though the male lands on top of the female, this behavior does not involve mating. For that, the female perches low along a branch and pumps the tail up and down rapidly, calling softly, and the male perches on her back, grasping her bill with his. Both male and female build the nest, incubate the eggs, and feed the young. Back to top


Restricted Range

Mangrove Cuckoos appear to be declining in Florida, probably as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 200,000 and rates the species a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Mangrove Cuckoo is on the Yellow Watch List for species with restricted ranges. Although some of the species’ natural habitat has been removed in Florida, the Mangrove Cuckoo appears to recolonize areas that are reforested, even relatively small parcels in urban areas.

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Hughes, Janice M. (2012). Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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Learn more at Birds of the World