The Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana) is a large and active species of cuckoo. It can be found in wooded habitats from northwestern Mexico to northern Argentina, Uruguay, and Trinidad. The large cuckoo is extremely long-tailed about 40.5–50 centimeters long and weighs 95 to 120 grams.
The Squirrel Cuckoo is common and is most often seen gliding from one tree to another. It is enthusiastically hopping from branch to branch in the hunt for a wide variety of arthropods. The adult cuckoo has mainly chestnut upperparts and head, becoming paler on the throat. The lower breast is grey and the belly is blackish.
The Squirrel Cuckoo’s central tail feathers are Rufous, but the outer is black with white tips. The bill is yellow and the iris is red. Immature birds have a grey bill and eyeing brown iris, and less white in the tail. It looks like the little cuckoo, but that species is smaller and has a darker throat. However unique throughout its range it is highly polytypic with fourteen subspecies that vary in the coloration of their underparts, throat, bare parts, and tail.
Therefore, few of these subspecies are quite different, and due to their lack of integration with adjoining subspecies maybe represent separate species. The Squirrel Cuckoo is a common species that inhabit a diversity of forested habitats across its range, including humid to semi-humid forest, deciduous forests, forest edge, second growth, plantations, and even scattered trees in open country.
There’re a number of subspecies with minor plumage variations. i.e P. c. mehleri, one of the South American subspecies, has mainly brown outer tail feathers. Moreover, the subspecies from Mexico, Central America, and northern and western South America have a yellow eye ring, but this is red in the remaining part of South America.
The Squirrel Cuckoo is explosive kip! kip! weeuu calls, and the song is a whistled wheep wheep wheep wheep wheep. The nests are constructed in trees or in low dense growth. Although building, one partner male brings the material to the other, who stays on the nest and arranges it.
The Squirrel Cuckoo completed nest comprises a loose foundation of coarse sticks supporting a thick mass of leaves, some of which are green when brought back. The clutch typically is two eggs which are chalky white and unmarked. The eggs may become stained brown by the leaves in the nest.