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The Life of the Common Cuckoo

The common cuckoo is scientifically called Cuculus canorus, and it's a latin term where cuculus means 'cuckoo' and canorus means 'to sing'. The common cuckoo is a member of the cuckoo birds (family - Cuculidae) of the order Cuculiformes, and includes the anis, coucals and roadrunners in that order. This bird is the only cuckoo bird renowned for its calling 'cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo', the rest of them have different calling tones and some of them are too loud. Unfortunately, the cuckoo's population as a whole has decreased over the last 60 years, and ornithologists believe it may be due to the loss of habitat and environmental change in the Earth. But this is not a major worry for experts because they believe the common cuckoo is present worldwide and not always monitored, so therefore it is not a concern for extinction.

Common Cuckoo Chick in the Pipit's Nest (public domain worldwide) (public domain worldwide)

In Europe and Asia, the common cuckoo comes to visit in the summer season from Africa in the springtime. In Africa, the cuckoo likes to dwell in the winter season. After the summer visit they return to Africa between July and August just before the autumn season. The common cuckoo is infamous for using other bird's nests to lay its own eggs, so the bird is regarded as a brood parasite. The common cuckoo is an insectivore, in other words, an insectivorous bird which enjoys eating various types of caterpillars, and even the unpleasant ones which are mostly avoided by other species of birds. One example are the hairy caterpillars which the common cuckoos take pleasure in eating and other birds don't. Surprisingly enough, the common cuckoos will also eat crickets, dragonflies and beetles.

Reed Warbler Feeding a Baby Common Cuckoo. What an utter confusion!

In May, the beginning of summer, while the male cuckoos are displaying, the female ones fly around a chosen territory searching for a nest of other birds to take advantage of. What they actually do is, they eventually select nests that are already occupied by a pair of birds from a different species. The bird nests they take advantage of are the ones built by the dunnock, pipit or the reed warbler birds.

Next, the female common cuckoos remove an egg from their chosen nests, then they lay single eggs of their own. Most female common cuckoos may lay as much as twelve eggs, all in different nests, and often the eggs laid will nearly be identical to those already present. Once their eggs hatches, the young cuckoos will push the unfamiliar original eggs of other bird species out of the nest and have the right to all the food which were provided by the parents of other birds, and these birds do not suspect a thing on what's going on in their rightful nests.

Listen to the Charming Cuckoo

In general, these brood parasites are almost the same size as doves. The typical size of the adult common cuckoo is between 32 to 36 centimeters in length and wingspan of 56 to 58 centimeters. They can be spotted with ease and can be identified immediately due to their characteristic features. The first main feature is the characteristic 'cuckoo' call where everyone can acknowledge it's some kind of cuckoo bird. The common cuckoo will have grey colored upper parts including the head and chest with light greyish underparts barred with dark grey. Their wings are shaped like a scythe and have rapid beats, but their flight in the air is distinctively low and swift when taking off from the ground. Their tails are long and are quite pointed and are black and rounded. Common cuckoos loiter in gardens, moors, heaths, open wooded areas and steppe forests and also in coniferous and deciduous forests as their habitat.

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Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 30, 2012:

What an interesting bird! I had never known how they laid their eggs in other birds nests and are then "adopted" by the other birds as their own to be fed and nurtured. Amazing! Thanks for the lesson. Voted up, useful + interesting. Happy New Year!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on December 30, 2012:

This is an interesting bird that I am not yet acquainted with. Thanks for the good information. Here in North America, the cowbird is a parasitic bird.

Zia Uddin (author) from UK on December 30, 2012:

I love the common cuckoo as well. I even have a cuckoo clock. Thanks for taking the time to read my hub, really appreciate it.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 30, 2012:

I love the common Cuckoo.. excellent work.. I have to share this.. everyone needs to read this

Happy new year


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