Bird Families

How long does a cuckoo live


  • Description
  • The appearance of a cuckoo
  • Habitat
  • Why was they called a cuckoo
  • What eats
  • Chicks at home
  • Spread
  • Lifestyle
  • Eggs
  • Bearded cuckoo
  • Philippine cuckoo
  • Black cuckoo
  • Indian cuckoo


The cuckoo is a small forest bird of the genus of the same name. The average body length of a bird is 32 -34 centimeters, the wingspan is 6 -7 centimeters, and its weight is 90 -190 grams.

The appearance of a cuckoo

The cuckoo has a long, thin body, narrow wings set at the end, a long tail, sloping along the edge in the form of a wedge. Legs are short, poorly developed, unsuitable for walking on the ground. The structure of the paws is zygodactyl - two claws look forward, and the other two are turned back. The beak is short, bent downwards.

Sexual dimorphism is expressed in size (males are larger than females) and plumage. In adult males, the head, shoulders, and back are gray. The throat and upper chest are ashy. The belly and chest are creamy with wide black transverse stripes. Tail feathers are dark gray with white spots and border.

The color of females does not always repeat the plumage of the male. In some species, the so-called morph occurs, when the back and breast are painted in an ocher color, diluted with black stripes (common, deaf and small cuckoos). There are species that have a solid black chest (a type of black cuckoo).

The common cuckoo weighs about 100 grams and its body length is 40 centimeters. The female and male differ in plumage color. So, the back of the male is dark gray, and the rest of it has light gray and white plumage with stripes. The beak of such an individual is black and slightly bent, and its legs are short.


Cuckoos settle in remote, deserted places. They inhabit dense forests, foothill areas, shrub thickets. You will not find these birds in the taiga and coniferous forests. In areas with sparse vegetation, they settle in oases.

Why was they called a cuckoo

The cuckoo was named so because of the peculiarities of her songs. Voiced "ku-ku" cannot be confused with any other bird. For many peoples the names of this bird are similar: in Bulgaria it is called "kukovitsa", in the Czech Republic - "kukacha", in Germany - "kukuch", in France - "kukuo", in Romania - "kukul", in Italy - "kukulo" ... The Latin name Cuculus comes from the word "canere", which means "to sing"

What eats

Cuckoos consume food of animal origin. Small tree and flying insects, spiders go for food. Favorite food of cuckoos: grasshoppers, slugs, mosquitoes, flies, worms, caterpillars, butterflies. Plains cuckoos add fruits and berries to the menu.

The cuckoo is one of the few birds that eats furry caterpillars with pleasure. Their poison, contained in the intestines, is fatal to most birds. The cuckoo, before eating the insect, prudently pushes the poisonous intestine out with its tongue. Do not mind to taste the cuckoo of newborn lizards and bird eggs. The birds grab food on the fly, without sinking to the ground.

Cuckoos are voracious birds. One adult bird can eat up to 100 caterpillars in an hour. By the fall, the birds eat even more. So they accumulate subcutaneous fat, which is necessary for making long flights.

Scientists consider the cuckoo to be the orderly of the forest. If pests are introduced to its habitat, then the bird will not stop until it has overfished them all.

Chicks at home

Grown up cuckoos show interest in the world around them and often fall out of the nest. fallen chicks become prey of mammals, as foster parents are in no hurry to help.

A matched cuckoo can be fed at home. It is known that

cuckoos are insectivorous birds. They need to be fed with food of animal origin. IN

in the wild, caterpillars form the basis of the diet. Young animals eat a lot and often. IN

he eats up to 50 caterpillars a day. And asks for food every half hour. Cuckoo in captivity

fed with mealworms, which are sold in pet stores. If there is no familiar

for food birds, then give minced meat mixed with raw egg, liquid food for

dogs and cats. canned food.

The chicks do not care who is their breadwinner. they gladly open their mouths as soon as a person approaches.

By the month of life, the chick will learn how to get food on its own. As soon as it gets up on the wing,

he should be set free. As a rule, cuckoos do not lend themselves to domestication.

Having matured, the bird will immediately fly away to freedom.

Cuckoos try to toss their eggs into such nests, where they would correspond to those eggs that were laid by the owners of the nest themselves. Match is usually determined by both color and size. At first, she watches a little how the nest is being built, choosing in advance those to whom she can lay her eggs.

It is worth noting that a female can produce up to 20 eggs in one summer, but she manages to throw only 5 eggs of them. If she does not find a nest, then she leaves her egg right on the ground or in some abandoned nest. If necessary, the female is able to hold on to the egg for several days, which is already ready for demolition.

Rare feathered nest owners notice the replacement of eggs. But

and already on the 13th day they are ready to hatch from the shell. They hatch naked and blind. At first, little cuckoos are very similar to the chicks of their adoptive parents, sometimes even the voice becomes similar to the sounds made by adoptive parents. The hatched cuckoo has a sensitive back and a small depression in the coccyx. If any of the chicks touches him, then with this depression he can throw the egg or the chick itself out of the nest.

The cuckoo is very demanding: it often and wide opens its orange mouth, demanding food. Due to the constant demand for food, the nest owners do not even have time to see the chick fall and help him, and sometimes they simply ignore this fall. The cuckoo grows very quickly. It is known that already on the 22nd day it not only exceeds in size its adoptive parents, but also at this time it leaves the nest. But the owners of the nest rush after him, feeding him with insects for several more weeks.


The distribution area of ​​cuckoos is extensive. There are more than 150 species of birds in the world that live in Eurasia, Africa, Indonesia, Asia. Cuckoos are found in America and the Pacific Islands. The only exceptions are Arctic latitudes. The cuckoo is an unpretentious bird. It takes root in the tropics, temperate latitudes and even the tundra. Common cuckoos live in Europe and Russia, India, China and Japan. In winter they nest in Africa, southern India and southern China.

The cuckoo is widespread. She usually nests in the following territories:

  1. Europe.
  2. Africa.
  3. Asia.
  4. Arctic Circle.

The cuckoo is a migratory bird, so it can be found in the taiga, and in the steppe, and on reservoirs, and in parks, and in gardens, and on the outskirts of cities and villages, and in the mountains, and along the outskirts of deserts, and even high above the level seas. During the flight, they move in a northeastern direction and cover a distance of 80 kilometers per day.

In Russia, these birds usually appear at the end of May - July. They inhabit almost everywhere, except for the northern tundra. The favorite places of the common cuckoo are forests and parks, forest edges and clearings, coastal thickets and low bushes.


Male cuckoos immediately occupy a rather large area, attracting females with their loud and ambiguous cry. Thanks to this crowing, this bird got its name. Females are not so melodic and prefer to be silent more, but sometimes in flight they can also emit a sonorous trill, attracting males for mating.

To date, more than 120 species of birds are known, in the nests of which the cuckoo has ever thrown its eggs. But usually they try to select the songbirds of the passerine order. Therefore, cuckoo eggs are so easy to toss into the nests, because they are the same size and color. It is known that if a female cuckoo grows up in the nest, then next summer she will return to the area where her adoptive parents used to nest, remembering the appearance of those who raised them. Young birds begin to reproduce later than older birds. By the way, the life span of a cuckoo in the wild does not exceed 5-10 years.

Many species of cuckoos are migratory birds. Crested representatives of the genus living in Europe and southern Africa migrate to North Africa for the winter. The thick-billed cuckoos inhabiting southern Africa and Madagascar fly to its eastern part for the winter.

The most studied way of life of the common cuckoo. The bird hides for most of the year in thickets of dense forests. It is not shown to humans or animals. At this time, he practically does not sing. Cuckoos lead a secretive lifestyle. They never gather in flocks, form pairs for one season. During the breeding season, they become more sociable.

Males sing their perky songs, and females begin to search for territories for breeding. Mating games consist of demonstration performances, fierce fights for females. Males spread their tails and call their partners. In gratitude for the fact that the female chose him, the male brings her a twig or leaf as a gift.

Cuckoo birds do not build nests or raise offspring. These birds are perfect parasites that get rid of their eggs, and maintain the population at the expense of other species of birds. Cuckoos do not have a developed maternal instinct, so they try with all their might to free themselves from the shackles of motherhood, throwing eggs to other birds. So they free up time for themselves to search for food and rest.

The life span of cuckoos is 9-11 years. Most birds die at a young age due to predators that ravage bird nests.

There is no nesting breeding area. Geographically, only the areas are divided into which the female performs the replacement of eggs. 2-3 females are found in one area at once. Two or three cuckoos at once can throw their eggs into one nest.

Cuckoos are polygamous birds. They mate only for the fertilization of eggs. The male mates with 5-10 females per day. Females wait for males in their "own" territory. Partners visit the spouse and then leave her habitat in search of another partner.

For one clutch, the female brings up to 15 eggs. She will spread them all to the nearby nests. At the same time, the cuckoo mother still takes care of her future cubs - before laying an egg, she throws the master's eggs out of the nest. Foster parents hatch and raise not their own chicks, but the chicks of the cuckoo.

This way of life has developed in the cuckoo due to the biological characteristics of the bird's organism. The cuckoo lays eggs at intervals of 3-5 days. During the summer season, she brings more than a dozen eggs, while in most bird species there are only 2-4 eggs in a clutch. Chicks hatch according to the order of laying.

If the cuckoo incubated its offspring on its own, then it would have to stay in the nest for two months. In addition, she cannot feed such a number of chicks, even if a male would help her. Therefore, evolution has led to the fact that the cuckoo has no choice but to raise its young with the help of other birds.

The cuckoo carefully chooses the parents for its offspring. Most often, she returns from her native biotype and throws eggs to those species of birds with which she was fed herself. The female cuckoo watches the birds, adjoins the couples engaged in the construction of the nest. As soon as the bird determines the place of laying, its body starts the mechanism of egg formation.

The cuckoo lays eggs right in someone else's nest. To do this, she waits for the owner to fly away, then she puts the clutch in 15 seconds. The male helps the female to drive the hosts away from the nest. It circles around the nest pretending to be a hawk. Other birds, fearing to be caught, fly away. Seizing the moment, the female cuckoo rushes to someone else's home.

Chicks are born earlier than others, newborns are much more developed than half-brothers and sisters. Cukushatas are very voracious. They constantly demand food, food for the whole district. Cuckoo chicks do not like competition and usually throw foster parents out of the nest. The instinct to get rid of strangers fades away by the fourth day of life.

Not all cuckoos are parasitic. The species inhabiting tropical Africa do not throw eggs, but build one common nest and lay a clutch in it. Mature birds are engaged in raising offspring.

The incubation period lasts 12 days. The cuckoo eggs look larger than the eggs of the nursery birds. The shell color is varied. There are white eggs with brown specks, there are bluish-green, dirty yellow, dark brown.

Some species of cuckoos lay eggs similar in size and color to those of nursery birds. Cuckoos that parasitize nests of sparrows, wagtails or warblers lay small light brown eggs. Cuckoos that prefer the nests of crows and magpies lay larger eggs. Cuckoo eggs can be found in the nests of passerine birds as well as those of the hawk family.

Most often, the cuckoo parasitizes the nests of redstart, warblers, tiny beetles, wrens, nightingales, swifts, sparrows, etc. The number of species-educators reaches 300. Many cuckoos parasitize on one species of birds. Some species carry out clutching chaotically, without understanding which bird species this or that nest belongs to.

Bearded cuckoo

  • Latin name: Cuculus (Hierococcyx) vagans
  • Weight: 140 g
  • Conservation status: Rare species

A small, agile bird, no larger than a dove. Body length - about 32 centimeters, weight - 140 grams. Breeds mainly in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar and southern Thailand. Lives in the subtropics and tropics, in dense forests. Leads a sedentary lifestyle. Due to the cultivation of wild territories, the number of bearded cuckoos has decreased.

The back, nape, tail and wings are colored brown, which is diluted with cream strokes. On the throat there is a thick "beard" of white feathers. The chest and belly are white with symmetrical black vertical stripes. The legs and eyes are yellow. The beak is black.

The bearded cuckoo breeds during the summer. The female lays one bluish egg in the nests of other birds. The cuckoo throws out other eggs from the nest, remaining alone with foster parents who feed him for a month. Then the grown chick leaves the monastery.

  • Latin name: Cuculus fugax
  • Weight: 130 g
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small bird with a shallow head, a long forked tail and wide shortened wings. Body weight does not exceed 130 grams, body length is 30 centimeters. In behavior in the air, it is similar to a hawk. Color: back, wings and tail are painted in graphite color, belly, chest and throat are cream with long longitudinal dark gray stripes-bends. The border of the tail is red.

This type of cuckoo is divided into three subspecies:

  1. C. fugax - lives in southern Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Borneo, West Java,
  2. C. hyperythrus - breeds in China, Korea, Russia (Far East) and Japan. Groups living in the north spend the winter in Borneo. In Russia, they live in mountain taiga forests.
  3. C. nisicolor - distributed in northeastern India, Burma, southern China.

The wide-winged cuckoo screams loudly, but it is difficult to see it, as it hides in a windbreak or impenetrable thickets. For bird watchers, it is one of the least studied bird species of the cuckoo family.

Philippine cuckoo

  • Latin name: Cuculus (Hierococcyx) pectoralis
  • Weight: 120-140 g
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small forest bird, 29 centimeters long and weighing 120-140 grams. The plumage of adults is dark gray in the upper body and white in the lower. On the tail there are 3-4 transverse stripes of black or ocher color. The border of the tail is red.The beak is black with an olive base. Around the eye there is a yellow ring. The young have red stripes on their belly.

The habitat of the cuckoo of this species is the Philippines. Previously, experts identified the Filipino species as a subspecies of the wide-winged cuckoo, however, in the modern classification, the Filipino species is considered an independent species. The peculiarities of vocalization allowed to consider it a separate species. The cuckoo song consists of 7 different sounds.

Filipino birds live high above sea level (2300 meters), on forest edges. It feeds on wood insects. The mating season begins in mid-spring and lasts 3 months. It is a nesting parasite.

  • Latin name: Cuculus crassirostris
  • Weight: 130 g
  • Conservation status: Rare species

A small bird of the cuckoo family, common in the forests of the island of Sulawesi (Indonesia). Breeds up to 1400 meters above sea level. Body length is 29-30 centimeters, weight - 130 grams.

Scientists have not yet established which birds the cuckoo throws its eggs to. It is assumed that the possible caregiver is the drongo.

  • Latin name: Cuculus solitarius
  • Weight: 120-125 g
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The bird is of medium size (body length - 28 centimeters, weight - 120-125 grams).

The head and tail of the cuckoo are graphite-colored, the back is gray. The light brown chest is dotted with transverse brown lines. The gray color of the tail is diluted with large white strokes. A distinctive feature in the plumage of the red-breasted cuckoo is a bright large brown spot on the throat.

A large population of the red-breasted cuckoo lives in South Africa. Leads a nomadic lifestyle. The habitat of the cuckoo is forests.

Red-breasted birds live alone, never gather in flocks. Having thrown an egg into the nest of another bird (as a rule, passerine birds become adoptive parents), the cuckoo is removed from its place and does not return to its former territory. For one clutch, the cuckoo lays up to 20 brown eggs. She carries them to nearby nests. Most often, female wagtails are raised.

Black cuckoo

  • Latin name: Cuculus clamosus
  • Weight: 135-145 g
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The bird weighs 135-155 grams, body length is 35 centimeters. This is a small, densely built bird, painted mainly in dark colors. The subspecies Cuculus clamosus clamosus has black plumage with bleached strokes on the chest. Birds of the subspecies Cuculus clamosus gabonensis are black with a red throat and white streaks on the belly.

The black cuckoo lays eggs on at least 22 species of birds. The main species-educators are the red-breasted song shrike and the Ethiopian shrike.

Indian cuckoo

  • Latin name: Cuculus micropterus
  • Weight: 120 g
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Indian cuckoo is a migratory bird. Migrates to India and Indonesia for the winter. In summer, it nests in the eastern part of China, sometimes flies in the high-trunk forests of the Far East. This species is similar to the deaf and common cuckoo, the only difference is that there are no red areas in the plumage. The body of the bird is colored brown, the border of the tail is black. Black broad transverse stripes are present on the chest.

The Indian cuckoo leads a secluded, hidden lifestyle. Little is known about the bird's habits and lifestyle. Bird watchers know for sure that she lays up to 20 eggs per season and lays them for species of birds. At the same time, it does not throw out other eggs.