The cuckoo is a bird that lives with us in spring and early summer and that we recognize by the call of the male. It sounds something like “gu-kuh”. The female is known for laying her eggs in other people’s nests and not incubating them herself.
The cuckoo clock became popular in the Black Forest: this clock is hung on the wall. Every hour a door opens and a bird figure emerges. Their call comes pretty close to that of the real cuckoo.
How does the cuckoo live?
The cuckoo is a migratory bird that travels very long distances. It spends most of its time in the southern half of Africa or in southern Asia. At the end of our winter, he sets out. In our countries, it arrives around April. Each cuckoo flies alone, not in a flock.
The male uses his typical call to attract a female. After mating, the female usually lays about ten eggs, but only one at a time. It sits on a branch and watches its host birds. It can’t be just any bird species. It is the same species in which the female cuckoo herself grew up. Through evolution, the cuckoo eggs have changed so that they closely resemble the eggs of the host family. They’re just a little bit bigger.
As soon as a baby cuckoo has hatched, it begins to maneuver the remaining eggs or even the chicks out of the nest. This is a huge effort that only the cuckoo can do. The host parents then feed and raise the cuckoo child without realizing it.
However, being raised by other birds does not always work: some bird species abandon their nests when they notice that a foreign chick is sitting in it. Depending on the bird species, this happens in almost every third nest.
The cuckoo parents move back south soon after laying their eggs. The young cuckoo also flies away again in the same summer. He cannot have learned anything from his biological parents. So the way to his winter area is only stored in his genes. The females also have the pattern on the eggshell stored in their genes. Likewise, the knowledge in which nest they should later lay their own eggs.
Is the cuckoo endangered?
In Germany, there is one breeding pair for every 1,000 people, across Europe there are around six million pairs. However, it depends very much on the region, because the cuckoos are unevenly distributed.
The cuckoo is only directly endangered in certain areas. The population of host pairs is declining there, which is why the cuckoo can no longer reproduce as usual. The host pairs are becoming fewer and fewer because they lack the necessary habitat. More and more small forests and hedgerows have to give way to agriculture. The habitat of the host pairs disappears and the female cuckoos can no longer find nests for their eggs.