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Location: Birds & Bats

Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)



Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Order: Cuculiformes, Family: Cuculidae

Common cuckoos are found throughout the Old World, from Spain to Japan. They usually migrate to Africa, south of the Sahara during the winter. The common cuckoo is approximately 33 cm in length. Adult males are generally gray above, including the throat and breast, while the undersides are white with close black bars. The tail, which is long and graduated, is black with white spots. The adult females are occasionally brown above, white below, and barred black. The juvenile cuckoos resemble the rare brown phase of the female. Juveniles are brown, barred, and have a white patch on the back of the neck.



I. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE
  • Common cuckoos are found throughout the Old World, from Spain to Japan. They usually migrate to Africa, south of the Sahara during the winter.
II. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
  • The common cuckoo is approximately 33 cm in length.
  • Adult males are generally gray above, including the throat and breast, while the undersides are white with close black bars. The tail, which is long and graduated, is black with white spots. The adult females are occasionally brown above, white below, and barred black. The juvenile cuckoos resemble the rare brown phase of the female. Juveniles are brown, barred, and have a white patch on the back of the neck.
  • The cuckoo has short legs and a non-hooked bill. A noticeable feature of the common cuckoo is that it has very pointed wings.
  • The voicing of the common cuckoo differs between males and females. The males have an unmistakable "coo-coo" call, while the females have a babbling call.
III. FOOD HABITS
  • This cuckoo is an insectivore, eating mainly insects and their larvae. It eats hairy caterpillars, which are rejected by most birds. To avoid getting poisoned, the cuckoo will bite one end of the caterpillar, slice it open using its beak, then shake the insect at one end until the toxic contents are released before eating it.
IV. REPRODUCTION
  • The common cuckoo is a brood parasite. The female cuckoo lays her egg in the nest of another species. The cuckoo egg closely resembles the egg of the host species' egg. The eggs of cuckoos are either spotted or solid in color, depending upon the color of the host species' egg. The egg mimicry is an adaptation to parasitism. When the host species leaves the nest unattended, the female cuckoo removes one of the host's eggs from the nest, then lays her own before the host returns. The cuckoo egg is incubated for about 12.5 days and usually hatches before the host eggs. Once the cuckoo has hatched, it will eject the other eggs or young so that it will receive all the food brought by the "foster parents." The young cuckoo is fed and brooded by the host for 20-23 days, and grows several times larger than the hosts.
V. BEHAVIOR
  • Cuckoos are mostly shy and live solitary lives, except during the breeding season. During the breeding season the cuckoos become noisier, males with the well-known "coo-coo" song, while the females give a "bubbling" call.
VI. HABITAT
  • The common cuckoo can live almost anywhere, ranging from heaths and forests, to farmlands, open moorlands and marshes.
VIII. CONSERVATION
  • No special status.



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