Home PageBirds of Devon and Cornwall Cuckoo  

Latin name - Cuculus canorus

The Cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with a blue-grey head, breast and upperparts, yellow eyes and legs and a slightly curved bill. Adult males and females are similar but the young are brown. Due to its long tail and swept-back wings it is often mistaken whilst in flight for a Sparrowhawk. It is famous, both for the unique "cuckoo" call of the male and the female’s practice of laying its eggs in other birds' nests and leaving the host birds to incubate and rear its young. Once hatched, the Cuckoo chick ejects the legitimate occupants and then gets fed and reared by its unsuspecting foster parents. Each female Cuckoo specialises in using a particular host species and will lay eggs with similar markings to the host bird's eggs, and the young Cuckoo will imitate the begging calls of the host's chicks. Species favoured by the Cuckoo are the Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Reed Warbler and Robin. The cuckoo only lays a single egg in each nest, finding a new nest for each of her 15 to 20 eggs. Cuckoos are summer migrants, arriving around April and returning to central and southern Africa from mid-July to August. The juveniles follow in August and September. Caterpillars, especially hairy caterpillars, and other insects such as beetles and ants form the major part of the Cuckoo's diet.

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