Before clocks or insanity, the word “cuckoo” referred to a bird. This species, far from being insane, may be described as having a touch of diabolical brilliance.
Roadrunners are part of the Cuculidae family, which has 147 species. The little mangrove cuckoo of coastal Mexico and the Caribbean, with its blue speckled tail feathers, to the guira cuckoo of central and western South America, with its safety-orange beak and punk rock crest. They prefer densely forested, wooded, and thickety settings with plenty of leafy trees to hide under. Except for Antarctica, they can be found in every country.
The smallest is the Southeast Asian, New Guinean, and eastern Australian bronze cuckoo, which is just six inches long and weighs little over half an ounce. The biggest is the channel-billed cuckoo, which is found in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and Indonesia and is around two feet long and weighs 1.3 pounds. These majestic birds are known as “flying walking sticks” because of their huge, curved bills, which are similar to those of a hornbill.
The cuckoo’s food varies by species, but most insects are on the menu, particularly the prickly, hairy caterpillars that other birds avoid. Cuckoos shed their stomach linings on a regular basis to tackle this problem. Fruit is eaten by Indian and channel-billed cuckoos, whereas guira cuckoos seek for tiny frogs and animals. Some cuckoos consume the young of other birds.
Their sounds vary widely as well, although the humorous German clocks named after the species replicate the cry of the common cuckoo, which may be found in Europe, much of Asia, and Central and Southern Africa.
Cuckoo wooing differs depending on the species. At two years old, male and female common cuckoos are ready to mate, and both sexes mate with several partners. Only during the mating season, from April to September, do they produce their calls. Females answer with a bubbling sound while males stretch their wings, fan their tails, and bob their heads.
Prospective suitors give tasty caterpillars to the lucky females of the Diederik cuckoo species. Female channel-billed cuckoos will cry out to a male, who will react by bringing her an insect.
The size of a cuckoo’s clutch varies by species, but the common cuckoo, for example, lays 12 to 20 eggs every season, which hatch in 11 to 13 days.
Brood parasitism is the practice of cuckoos depositing their eggs in the nests of other birds. Some are non-obligate brood parasites, which means they will lay their eggs in other species’ nests or on their own. Obligate brood parasites, such as the European cuckoo, have lost their capacity to build nests and must therefore lay all of their eggs in the nests of other birds.
These cuckoos don’t have to worry about brooding or parenting their eggs since they pawn them off on other birds. The cuckoo chicks may even be kicked out of the nest by the cuckoo hatchling. It sounds like a complete nest full of the host’s kids, which fools the host parent into feeding it. It’s even fed more since it sounds like there are more chicks.
Each cuckoo species has its own preferences for which host species it will lay its eggs on. Some cuckoo species’ females have evolved a wide range of egg colours in order to outsmart hosts that are prone to toss unusual eggs out of their nests.
Approximately 77 percent of cuckoo species are classified as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Nonetheless, some areas have seen population losses. The cuckoo population in the United Kingdom, for example, has decreased by 65 percent, which could be due to a variety of factors, including climate-related changes such as droughts caused by warmer weather, which have reduced the number of insects, leaving the cuckoo with less food and energy to return to Africa at the end of mating season.
Cuckoos are small to medium-sized birds. They can grow to be 12.6 to 14.1 inches long and 2.1 ounces in weight.
The colour of their feathers distinguishes men and females. Males’ upper bodies are bluish to grey, and their white bellies have black lines running through them. Some girls may have the appearance of men, with the exception of buff colored breasts with black lines. Other females are reddish brown or fully coated in dark bands. Cuckoos in their infancy are slate-grey and reddish brown in appearance.
The connection between the words “cuckoo” and “crazy” may stem from a myth in which birds construct a “cuckoo cloud country” to keep gods and mortals apart. The concept evolved to denote a fantastical, fictitious realm. By the twentieth century, it had been reduced to “cuckoo,” which meant “mad.”
Four common cuckoos flew 7,500 kilometres from Mongolia to southern Africa in 2020, making it one of the world’s longest land bird migrations.
A female cuckoo may make a chuckling-type cry that sounds like a sparrowhawk, the reed warbler’s predator, while depositing her egg in the nest of a reed warbler. The cuckoo’s call attracts the bird’s attention, allowing her extra time to place her egg in the nest.
Cuckoo eggs are placed in the nests of reed warblers, meadow pipits, and dunnock birds, while 90 percent of cuckoo eggs are laid in the nests of reed warblers, meadow pipits, and dunnock birds. Cuckoo selects nests that have eggs that are the most comparable to the eggs she produces.
— Bronwyn Reynolds, Fizzin