British wildlife recordings

Cuculus canorus : Common Cuckoo - Cuculidae

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  • Duration


  • Shelf mark

    W1CDR0001375 BD3

  • Subjects


  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    OS Grid Reference(641500,323500)

  • Recordist

    Shove, Lawrence

  • Species

    Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus

  • Description

    Recording of the song and call of the cuckoo. The British summer would not be complete without the unmistakeable two-tone song of the male cuckoo. In flight this bird displays a long tail and pointed wings, resulting in it being often mistaken for a sparrowhawk. Its slender bill is ideal for eating insects, spiders, worms and centipedes. The adult male has grey upperparts and pale underparts, the latter being strongly barred. Females are similar although some individuals can appear brown. The cuckoo is not a nest-builder because it is a parasite of other birds. The female will substitute her own egg with one from a clutch in a nest, which has been momentarily left by the parent birds. The cuckoo chick will emerge before the host's offspring, giving it the opportunity to expel the other eggs. The chick's feeding call is unusual. Scientists believe that this sound mimics that of a brood of chicks, fooling the foster parents that they are rearing a number of birds, rather than one oversized individual. The cuckoo is a summer visitor, arriving from Africa in early spring. It usually leaves in August. Destruction of suitable habitats, such as woodland and wetland areas, together with the influence of pesticides on its food supply has helped this elegant bird to become scarce. There are currently between 13,000 and 27,000 breeding pairs.

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