It is difficult to see the cuckoo in nature, but we certainly all know its sound. Its typical “cuckoo” is associated with spring. The cuckoo is a strictly migratory bird. It arrives late in the spring, at the end of April-early May, but leaves in August. Its wintering grounds are in Africa.
Cuckoos inhabit all types of biotopes, from lowlands to higher places, except for densely populated areas. Many nations have legends associated with this bird, almost all of them connected to its interesting and unusual behavior called brood parasitism. What does it mean? To ensure the future of its offspring, the cuckoo lays eggs in the nests of other birds and does not look after them, not building its own nest. The cuckoo chooses its adoptive (substitute) parents carefully. These are most often reed warblers, wrens, redstarts, shrikes, wagtails, buntings, or flycatchers. The cuckoo lays only one egg in a nest at a time, which vary in color and appearance, based on the host species.
The young cuckoo hatches at the same time or a day before its half-siblings. It then throws everything that gets in its way, be it eggs or half-siblings, out of the nest to gain space for itself. This is also because its hard-working adoptive parents will have a lot of work to raise a young bird that is bigger than themselves. The cuckoo belongs to the bird species that feed on hairy caterpillars and insects, even the poisonous ones.
Do you know?
Over tens of thousands of years, multiple lineages of cuckoos that specialize in a particular host species have evolved. The appearance of a cuckoo resembles a sparrow hawk, which helps it frighten the host species.