Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)


Class: Aves
Order: Cuculiformes
Family:    Cuculidae
Size:    Length 11 to 13 inches (28 to 33 cm)   Wingspan: 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 cm)
Weight: 4 to 5 ounces (113 to 141 g)
Diet: Insects such as grasshoppers, flies, beetles, snails, crickets and especially butterflies
Distribution: Europe, Asia and Africa
Young:  Usually 9, but can be up to 25 chicks once a year
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Unknown



·     Members of the cuckoo family can be found all around the world except for the Antarctic.

·     The roadrunner is a member of the cuckoo family.

·     Cuckoo clocks originated in Germany’s Black Forest region in 1730.

·     Unlike the Common cuckoo, North American cuckoos are not brood parasites—they raise their own chicks.



Common cuckoos are more often seen than heard—their colouring allows them to blend in with the surrounding trees. Cuckoos are medium-sized, with a long  black, white-spotted tail. They have short legs and wings, the latter of which are noticeably pointed. The predominant colour is grey and the belly is white, with dark stripes across it. Females and males are similar in size and appearance.



Common cuckoos breed in Europe and Asia and winter in South Asia and Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. They can be found almost anywhere as they inhabit fences, farmland and marshes. 


Feeding Habits

Cuckoos find most of their insect diet among bushes and trees.  When females choose nests for their young, they make sure the owners of the nest are insect-eating, so that they can properly feed the young cuckoos. 



Female cuckoos usually lay nine eggs, one at a time, in the nests of smaller birds such as robins, dunnocks, pipits and warblers. The term for an animal that lays its eggs in the nest of a member of its own or another species is “brood parasite.” If females do not have access to the nest long enough to lay the egg directly in the nest, they will lay it on the ground and carry it in their mouths to the nest at an appropriate time, then remove one of the eggs already there and dispose of it, so the number of eggs remains the same. She tries to match the other bird’s eggs as far as size and colouring, except in the case of the dunnock, who lays blue, non-spotted eggs. Approximately 12 days later, when cuckoo chicks hatch, these newborns toss the other eggs and/or hatchlings over the side of the nest. The new parents take care of the cuckoo chick as if it is their own, even though it grows to be much larger than they are in a short amount of time, and even outgrows the nest. In fact, by the time the chick is one month old, it has grown to 50 times the size it was at hatching. The chicks leave the nest at about this time. It is believed that the cuckoo is anatomically unable to brood its eggs, which explains why it places them with other birds.



Common cuckoos are good fliers and resemble hawks or falcons in flight, but are awkward on the ground. They are shy animals that live solitary lives, except during breeding season when they pair up with a mate. 



Numbers are in decline due to pesticide use and habitat loss, but they are not considered a conservation concern at this time. 



Common Cuckoo Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US