WEEK-BY-WEEK BIRDS TO SEEK: WEEK 19 CUCKOO

EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.

This week, it is the Cuckoo

This week we look at the unique Cuckoo, a very widespread, though declining summer visitor to the UK. They are the only British bird which never raises its own young, laying eggs in the nests of Reed Warblers, Dunnocks, Meadow Pipits etc. Cuckoos are largely caterpillar scoffers, with a surprising liking for various hairy (qnd so presumably irritant laced) moth species.

Cuckoo

Typical male Cuckoo singing pose with wings down and tail up

Typical male Cuckoo singing pose with wings down and tail up

Adult Cuckoo with caterpillar

Adult Cuckoo with caterpillar

Young juvenile Cuckoo begging its 'adoptive' parents for food

Young juvenile Cuckoo begging its 'adoptive' parents for food

The Cuckoo is the size of a small Kestrel or Sparrowhawk and has a similar appearance to both birds. They are shy birds and most often seen when singing the famous song (males) in May and June or as juveniles later in the year. Males are females are usually quite similar, mid grey with finely barred underparts. The tail is long and rounded and the wings long and pointed, the body slim; in flight the wings look like they are flicked below the plain of the body. There is an uncommon but beautiful rufous (‘hepatic’) colour morph of the female, where the upperparts are barred black on a rusty orange/rufous ground colour. Juveniles are brown and heavily barred above.

Many adults leave of their southbound migration soon after mating/egg-laying, even before the end of June; as they, of course, take no part in bringing up the youngsters. So, most Cuckoos seen in August will be youngsters.

All photos from Alamy