Skip to content

Cuckoos like Clockwork

October 3, 2022

It’s true in Europe and true in Australia – when Springtime rolls around, the call of cuckoos can be heard ringing through the woods. As to which cuckoo turns up, there does seem to be variation. This year I have come across Fantail cuckoo and Shining Bronze-cuckoo; sometimes we also find Pallid cuckoo and Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo.

Why are they so predictable? Their survival depends upon turning up when other birds are nesting. The female cuckoo must lay its egg in the nest of another bird if it is going to successfully reproduce. It would do no good rocking up a month late – it must be here when its host bird is nesting.

Fantailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformus)

Cuckoo calls are loud but cuckoos are hard to see. Some say their call is ventriloquial – you cannot locate where it is coming from. Others swear they are not real – a spirit bird that lives in the leaves but is invisible. Wordsworth wrote a poem about it: …O cuckoo! Shall I call thee Bird/Or but a wandering Voice?

Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;

The same whom in my school-boy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.

To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen.

And his experience is true to my own but occasionally I get lucky. Here is the Shining Bronze-cuckoo (Chalcites lucidus) which I have heard far more often than I’ve seen.

Shining Bronze-cuckoo
The aptly-named Shining Bronze-cuckoo
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: