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A Glimpse Into the Life of Cuckoo Bird

Rujuta Borkar
The cuckoo bird makes for a very fascinating study. Let us look more closely at its habitat and behavior patterns.
The cuckoo bird (cuculus canorus), most famous for its eternal role in doling out the time from within the confines of a wooden home. Why did it get there and what is its story? Maybe some other day, that. Today, let's focus on the real live bird. What is the cuckoo bird like? Where is its habitat? What are its behavior patterns? All that and more will follow in the following sections.


Physical Attributes

The British cuckoo is around 33-38 cm in length and almost the size of a dove. A typical adult bird will have a plumage that runs a color gray on the upper body, tail, wings and head and has white on the chest with gray bars. Females and young cuckoos on the other hand might have a slightly brown plumage.

The Cry

The characteristic 'cuckoo' cry of this bird is a typically male cry. The female cry sounds more like a chuckle. These calls might also resemble flutes, hiccups and whistles. These calls are used as a signal to mark their territories as well as to attract a mate. The several species of this bird will have their own set of characteristic calls.


This bird usually feeds on hairy caterpillars and are insectivorous by nature. They will rub the insects across branches or hard surfaces before consuming them.


Cuckoos are found all over the world. Since they migrate, it ensures that they migrate to warmer places during the winter. They are typically found in forest edges which have a water source near them. Along with that, they are found in the evergreen tropical rain forests and woodlands. Some have even been known to inhabit desert areas.


This bird is a solitary bird and diurnal (active during the day) by nature. One will seldom find them in pairs or even groups. The cuckoo bird exhibits behavior like that of a social parasite and engages in severe brood parasitism.
This bird does not build a nest for itself but will use the nest of other birds. After the eggs have been laid, or even before laying them, the female cuckoo will hunt for a host nest. Usually of the same species as itself or that among birds like robins, dunnocks and meadow pipits.
Once it finds a suitable nest, it will lay the egg directly into their nest or drop it into the same. The danger of the egg cracking is not an issue because the egg shells are extremely thick. She will wait to observe a nest that is left unattended by the host bird and then quickly lay her eggs or transfer them.
While doing so, she may throw the eggs from the host nest to the ground or the dropping of her own eggs might break the other eggs.
She will lay only one egg at a time but repeat this process for the entire breeding season, each time finding a different host nest to lay her egg. The eggs of the cuckoo bird have been found in over 150 different species' nests.
The egg in the host nest is hatched before any other eggs in the nest are hatched. Once the baby comes out, it will use all its power to drop the other eggs from the nest. This it does so that the foster parents can dole all the attention and care to them. It so happens that the foster parents might end up feeding the cuckoo alone, the amount of food that was supposed to be fed to all the birds in the nest. Therefore the baby bird will grow rapidly. Many times, you will notice that the cuckoo bird is much larger than the foster parents and will continue to be fed for several weeks.
The cuckoo bird is indeed a fascinating bird, wouldn't you agree? It has also, recently been added to the endangered birds list and efforts to save the species have well commenced.