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Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) | by Brian Carruthers-Dublin-Eire
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Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Cuckoo description

KingdomAnimalia

PhylumChordata

ClassAves

OrderCuculiformes

FamilyCuculidae

GenusCuculus (1)

 

A well-known harbinger of spring, the arrival of the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) in Britain is eagerly awaited each April (3). Adult males have bluish-grey upperparts and a white belly with dark barring. Females occur in two forms, one is similar to the male but the breast is buff coloured with dark barring; the other form is reddish brown, and often wholly covered with dark bars (2). Juveniles are slate-grey with touches of reddish-brown (2). The familiar call 'cuck-oo, cuck-oo' is imitated by the common name; later in the year females produce a 'bubbling' call (6).

 

French

Coucou gris.

 

Size

Length: 32-36 cm (2)

Weight

54-60 g

 

 

Cuckoo biology

 

The cuckoo is the only 'brood parasite' to breed in Britain (3). Individual females prefer certain foster birds, and lay eggs that closely mimic those of the foster species, 50 of which are known (3). A female will establish a territory encompassing a number of potential foster nests, and carefully observe activity, waiting until the nests are at the right stage. She then swiftly takes her chance, swooping down, ejecting an egg and laying one of her own (3). The unsuspecting host bird then incubates and feeds the impostor, who removes other eggs and young from the nest and often grows much larger than its foster parent (3). Female cuckoos usually lay fewer than 12 eggs in 12 different host nests each year (3). Cuckoos feed mainly on insects, spiders and worms (3).

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Cuckoo range

 

The cuckoo arrives in Britain during the second part of April from Africa south of the Sahara, and leaves in September (2). It is widespread in Britain and breeds throughout Europe, reaching as far east as Japan

 

Cuckoo habitat

 

The cuckoo occupies a broad variety of habitats, including all types of woodland, marshes, heaths and alpine areas

 

Description

Biology

Range

Habitat

Status

Threats

Conservation

Find out more

Glossary

References

Print factsheet

 

Cuckoo description

KingdomAnimalia

PhylumChordata

ClassAves

OrderCuculiformes

FamilyCuculidae

GenusCuculus (1)

 

A well-known harbinger of spring, the arrival of the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) in Britain is eagerly awaited each April (3). Adult males have bluish-grey upperparts and a white belly with dark barring. Females occur in two forms, one is similar to the male but the breast is buff coloured with dark barring; the other form is reddish brown, and often wholly covered with dark bars (2). Juveniles are slate-grey with touches of reddish-brown (2). The familiar call 'cuck-oo, cuck-oo' is imitated by the common name; later in the year females produce a 'bubbling' call (6).

 

French

Coucou gris.

 

Size

Length: 32-36 cm (2)

Weight

54-60 g (2)

 

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Related species

 

Oriental cuckoo (Cuculus optatus)

Oriental cuckoo

(Cuculus optatus)

Pallid cuckoo (Cuculus pallidus)

Pallid cuckoo

(Cuculus pallidus)

Black-eared cuckoo (Chrysococcyx osculans)

Black-eared cuckoo

(Chrysococcyx osculans)

 

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Cuckoo biology

 

The cuckoo is the only 'brood parasite' to breed in Britain (3). Individual females prefer certain foster birds, and lay eggs that closely mimic those of the foster species, 50 of which are known (3). A female will establish a territory encompassing a number of potential foster nests, and carefully observe activity, waiting until the nests are at the right stage. She then swiftly takes her chance, swooping down, ejecting an egg and laying one of her own (3). The unsuspecting host bird then incubates and feeds the impostor, who removes other eggs and young from the nest and often grows much larger than its foster parent (3). Female cuckoos usually lay fewer than 12 eggs in 12 different host nests each year (3). Cuckoos feed mainly on insects, spiders and worms (3).

Top

Cuckoo range

 

The cuckoo arrives in Britain during the second part of April from Africa south of the Sahara, and leaves in September (2). It is widespread in Britain and breeds throughout Europe, reaching as far east as Japan (3).

More »

Species with a similar range

 

Common scarlet-darter (Crocothemis erythraea)

Common scarlet-darter

(Crocothemis erythraea)

Red-veined darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii)

Red-veined darter

(Sympetrum fonscolombii)

Sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata)

Sago pondweed

(Stuckenia pectinata)

 

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.

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Cuckoo habitat

 

The cuckoo occupies a broad variety of habitats, including all types of woodland, marshes, heaths and alpine areas (2).

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Species found in a similar habitat

 

Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)

Lingonberry

(Vaccinium vitis-idaea)

Weasel (Mustela nivalis)

Weasel

(Mustela nivalis)

Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus)

Northern harrier

(Circus cyaneus)

 

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Cuckoo status

 

The cuckoo is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). A widespread summer visitor to the UK (3). Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Amber List (medium conservation concern) (4) and protected at all times under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

 

uckoo threats

 

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) has shown that the population of the cuckoo in Britain has declined steadily; this is thought to be due to a decrease in populations of key host species such as meadow pipit and dunnock (7), probably due to habitat-related factors (5).

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Cuckoo conservation

 

No specific conservation action has been targeted at the cuckoo.

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Taken on April 5, 2014