With a short, squat body and heavy head, this disheveled-looking bird does not resemble other cuckoos. It has a deep, blunt bill and a long, wedge-shaped tail that droops and wags as though loosely attached. Despite its ungainly appearance it walks and runs well, but its flight is poorly developed, consisting of a few rapid flaps interspersed with short glides. Feeding mainly on the ground, it takes grasshoppers and other insects, and follows cattle to catch the insects they disturb. The bird may also settle on the back of an animal and pick ticks off its skin. The species is highly sociable and feeds in small groups, communicating with a long, whining note. When resting, either on the ground or in bushes and small trees, the birds huddle together, sometimes preening each other. Breeding is loosely communal. Several pairs cooperate to build a nest, several females lay their eggs in it. and the whole group shares in incubation and in rearing the nestlings. The young often stay with the group and help to rear subsequent broods.

• NliST This bird does not parasitize the nests of other species. A cup nest of coarse twigs is made, with a lining, in a thorny tree.

• DISTRIBUTION From S. USA (C. Florida) south through Central and South America to W. Ecuador and N. Argentina. Also in the West Indies.

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