Common Squirrel-cuckoo Piaya cayana
(aka Squirrel Cuckoo)
Squirrel Cuckoo, Parque Estadual Cantareira, São Paulo, Brazil, July 2001 - click for larger image Brazil, Ecuador and Peru

The Common Squirrel-cuckoo is well named because you could easily mistake it for a squirrel as it slips through tree branches.

It is found from Mexico to northern Argentina and prefers open types of forest and woodland. See the distribution map at xeno-canto.

Squirrel Cuckoo, Boa Nova, Bahia, Brazil, July 2002 - click for larger image From a distance it could be confused with the Black-bellied Cuckoo (Piaya melanogaster) or the much smaller Little Cuckoo (Piaya minuta). They all have a similar silhouette including the very long, graduated tail. However, the Black-bellied has a black, as opposed to a gray belly as well as having a grey cap while the Little Cuckoo has mostly cinnamon underparts.
Squirrel Cuckoo, Intervales, São Paulo, Brazil, April 2004 - click for larger image The iris is red and the bare skin around the eye is red except in Central America and west of the Andes where it is yellowish green.

It feeds on insects and, despite its name, it is not a brood parasite but normally lays 2 to 3 eggs which are incubated by both parents.

There are subtle differences between the various sub-species of which there are about 13. Photos 1 and 3 from south-east Brazil show the sub-species P. c. macroura which is dark chestnut above with a blackish belly. Photo 2 from Boa Nova, Bahia is the race pallescens which is paler. Photo 4 from Caxiuaña, Pará is the race hellmayri which is more tan on the upperparts. Photo 5 taken at Antigua, Guatemala is the race thermophila which is darker rufous above and dark grey to black on the belly. Photo 6 from Tarapoto, San Martin, Peru is the sub-species obscura. Photo 7, from Baeza, Napo, Ecuador is the sub-species mesura.

Squirrel Cuckoo, Caxiuanã, Pará, Brazil, November 2005 - click for larger image
Squirrel Cuckoo, Antigua, Guatemala, March 2015 - click for larger image
Squirrel Cuckoo, Tarapoto, San Martin, Peru, October 2018 - click for larger image
Squirrel Cuckoo, Baeza, Napo, Ecuador, November 2019 - click for larger image
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