This is the bird everyone knows just by its call. The Cuckoo is a migratory bird arriving about April and leaving for Africa around August. They are around 33cm in length and the females weigh about 110g, with the males heavier at 130g.
Cuckoos resemble, superficially, Sparrow hawk but wings are more pointed and it has a longer tail. The colouring of the Cuckoo is grey, head, cheeks and breast with lighter underparts barred, hence the recalling of the Sparrow hawk. The rarer Rufous form is a rich chestnut for the female and immature young.
Everyone knows that the Cuckoo is parasitic and uses other birds as hosts to bring up their young. Unfortunately the host parents will often lose their entire clutch so that the young Cuckoo gets all the food.
Female Cuckoos start laying eggs around the end of May
After staking claim to their territory, and start looking for suitable hosts, usually a bird like the Reed Warbler, but normally the host bird that brought them up. It is a
strange site to see a Reed Warbler feeding a youngster that is literary squashing the nest as it grows as I have seen on a waterway near Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, a short canal way linking two rivers. Cuckoo’s cannot, by the way, mimic the eggs of their hosts at will, but often can resemble them. The egg is incubated for about 12 days and the young fledge in 19-24 days. The female may lay upwards of 10 eggs but only one for each nest
The habitat of the Cuckoo is very general liking farmland with hedges, woodland, heath, scrub, moorland and marshes. The food that Cuckoo’s eat is insects, chiefly caterpillars, and the hairier the better it seems. Apparently their stomach is protected by a lining which can be ejected and then renewed.
The call of the Cuckoo is known to all, but the well known cuck-oo is only given by the male. The female has a bubbling.
The Cuckoo has been in decline for a large number of years now and it is a few years since I have heard one. It is thought that farming practices such as removing hedges and other habitat and the widespread use of insecticides killing its source of food. It is also thought that the colder wetter springs and summers of late may also be contributing to its decrease in numbers.
Number of broods
1 - 25
17 - 21 days
11 - 13 days
1 - 25 eggs
Open woodland, forest, Marsh, Reedbed
130g M 110g F
Status in UK
Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
Conservation Status UK
Number in Britain
First clutches laid
Age at First Breeding
Day of first arrival
Maximum Recorded Age
6 years, 11 months