I know I have been absent from this blog for a while but I have kept up my other blogs and thank you to those who read and follow me there!
Today with the advent of very warm weather for the UK I thought I would think about a bird that appears, although secretively, earlier in the year and then departs again at this time of year, the Cuckoo.
The Cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they are not unlike kestrels. Sexes are similar and the young are brown. They are summer visitors and well-known brood parasites, the females laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. When the Cuckoo nestling hatches, it instinctively pushes the other eggs and nestlings out of the nest and is tended by its ‘foster parents’ until fledging.
Caterpillars and other insects such as beetles and ants form the major part of the Cuckoo's diet. Many of the caterpillars are the hairy or brightly coloured poisonous ones, but their digestive system is specially adapted to cope with the hairs and toxins.
The female will also sometimes eat the eggs and nestlings of the host bird.
Cuckoos can be seen throughout UK but especially in the south and central parts of the country. The adults usually arrive in late March/April and depart in July/August with the young following about a month later, returning to central and southern Africa.
An old rhyme describes the Cuckoo's time in Britain:
In April I open my bill
In May I sing night and day
In June I change my tune
In July far far I fly
In August away I must
The familiar ‘cuckoo’ sound is made by the male. The female will tend to issue a rich, bubbling sound.
It seems one too many birds may have flown over the Cuckoo’s nest, as the Cuckoo is now a member of the UK’s red list which contains the birds who are considered close to extinction. This could be accounted for by other birds being in decline, the nests of which they used for their own young.
It would be interesting to hear how its American counterpart is faring?