The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) has a unique nickname: Raincrow. What a fascinating bird! In the spring, we eagerly anticipate their arrival. They nest in many forest preserves here in northern Illinois.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Some names have been used for years as nicknames, while others have just been changed over the years.

Living the Scientific Life once posted a -nickname that bird- contest that resulted in some really funny names such as the Lawn Plover, which we at Birdfreak lovingly call an OBT (Orange-breasted Thrush).
American Robin (bathtime)

We found a few nicknames or old names for birds and made a short list. Do any of these look familiar?

  1. Marsh Hawk
  2. Duck Hawk
  3. Butter-butt
  4. Maryland Ground Warbler
  5. Russet-backed Thrush
  6. Wandering Rice-bird
  7. Sea Crow
  8. Blue Pete
  9. Louisiana Heron
  10. Butter-ball
  11. Skunk Duck
  12. Pheasant Duck
  13. Acorn Duck
  14. Oldsquaw
  15. The Lord God Bird

5 thoughts on “Raincrow

  1. The descriptive term I would use for the Yellow-billed Cuckcoo in looks is Sheer Elegance. Its sleek body, graceful flight, smooth movements all suggest elegance, when it opens its mouth however, that image fades. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Cuckoo but a bird who looks like that should have the voice or a Veery or Wood Thrush to go along with it. So how do I capture that all in one name? How about an Elegant Timber-rattle?

  2. Two just wonderful action photos! The moving Yellow-billed Cuckoo is my favorite for sure!! BTW: Butterbutt is the one I use the most! I also know of Skunk-headed Sparrow (White-crowned Sparrow) and Ratbird (catbird)

  3. I just finished a 3-week field ornithology course, and the topic is new to me. Somebody teaching the class said, “look, over on the dead tree branch is a red-breasted thrush.” So I look at it, then attempted to find a “red-breasted thrush” in my field guide. She thought she was so funny! 🙂

  4. Vern – I love the name you came up with! It is true that the Y.B. Cuckoo isn’t the prettiest song but at least it’s unmistakable.

    Mon@rch – Thanks…I like the Skunk-headed Sparrow… Pete Dunne calls it the Dapper Hedge Sparrow in his Essential Field Guide Companion

    Michael – That’s a funny story… our grandfather used to call birds odd names and for a long time we didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

  5. 1. Marsh Hawk — Northern Harrier
    2. Duck Hawk — Peregrine Falcon
    3. Butter-butt — Yellow-rumped Warbler
    4. Maryland Ground Warbler — Common Yellowthroat
    5. Russet-backed Thrush — Swainson’s Thrush
    6. Wandering Rice-bird — Bobolink
    7. Sea Crow — American Coot
    8. Blue Pete — Purble Gallinule
    9. Louisiana Heron — Tricolored Heron
    10. Butter-ball — Bufflehead
    11. Skunk Duck — Labrador Duck
    12. Pheasant Duck — Northern Pintail
    13. Acorn Duck — Wood Duck
    14. Oldsquaw — Long-tailed Duck
    15. The Lord God Bird — Ivory-billed Woodpecker

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