Flocks of yellow-billed cuckoos seen in Jamaica


Flocks of yellow-billed cuckoos seen in Jamaica

Scientist believes Hurricane Delta the cause

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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Flocks of yellow-billed cuckoos, which normally migrate from North to South America to escape winter, have been seen in Jamaica in recent weeks, an unusual spectacle which Terrestrial Biologist Damion Whyte believes is a result of Hurricane Delta.

“Occasionally, we would see one or two birds for the winter migration season. It seems like the regular migration was affected by Hurricane Delta, resulting in so many species being observed in Jamaica this year,” Whyte told the Jamaica Observer on the weekend.

“I have been getting reports on social media of sightings of the birds in Portmore, Spanish Town, Jacks Hill and Salt River in Clarendon. People were seeing flocks of 20 of these birds roosting and flying at their windows. Another person on Twitter posted a picture of one of the birds that died from the long trip to Jamaica,” said White, who has more than 4,000 followers on his Twitter account, roosters_world, on which he posts a wide variety of environmental developments.

He explained that the yellow-billed cuckoo, whose scientific name is Coccyzus americanus, is one of the five species of cuckoos that have been reported in Jamaica.

“It is regarded as a bird that is rarely seen or accidentally occurs in Jamaica. It is slender, with a distinct yellow bill or beak and a long tail, with distinct white spots on the underside,” Whyte stated.

The birds, he added, are occasionally confused with doves or the northern mockingbird.

One of their migration routes to South America takes them through the Caribbean. Another route sees them passing through Mexico and Central America.

Reiterating that only a few of the yellow-billed cuckoos would normally be seen here — arriving as early as September before migrating in March — Whyte said this year Jamaicans have reported seeing large flocks of the birds in October.

“During a visit in the Dunbeholden area on October 12, I observed over 100 birds along a half-mile trail sitting on fences and also in trees, from where they swooped down on juicy caterpillars feeding on weeds or migrating from the road to other plants,” Whyte told the Observer.

“We are not sure if these birds will remain in Jamaica or if they will go back on their route to South America. We are going to need the help of the public to report if they see the birds and if they leave,” added Whyte who asked that any such information be sent to him via e-mail at dl_whyte@yahoo.com, or to his Twitter account @roosters_world, or to his Instagram account Roosters.

Hurricane Delta — the 26th tropical cyclone, 25th named storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the very active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season — formed from a tropical wave on October 1.

Three days later it was designated a potential tropical cyclone and on October 5, it strengthened to a tropical depression before being named.

Between October 5 and 6 it grew into a category 4 hurricane and weather experts said its rate of intensification was the fastest in the Atlantic basin since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

However, Delta weakened to category 2 before making landfall in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, after which it decreased further in strength over land before entering into the Gulf of Mexico, where it was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane.

On October 8 it began to regain strength to the category 3 level as it turned northward.

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