Cuckoos tend to arrive on our shores from early April and start singing soon after. You know spring has truly arrived the first time you hear their unmistakeable call. Read on to discover five facts about these summer visitors.

1. Cuckoos are brood-parasites, which means they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds who then raise the chicks as their own. Some of the most common foster parents in Scotland include dunnocks and meadow pipits, even though they’re much smaller than cuckoos!

2. They obviously appreciate their foster parents, as many cuckoos have been found to lay their eggs in the same kind of nest they were hatched in. Not so much their siblings though, as they tend to eject other eggs or chicks from the nest once they’ve hatched.

 A newly hatched cuckoo chick is pushing other eggs out of a nest.

Despite only just hatching, cuckoo chicks make short work of their adopted siblings. Image credit: Mike Richards

3. The call of the cuckoo is a well-known harbinger of spring (and clocks) but did you know that only males make the famous ‘cu-koo’ sound? Females make a bubbling call that has been compared to water draining from a bath.

 An adult male cuckoo is perched on a post with a fern climbing up the side.

The grey bib tells us this is a male. So it will be 'cu-koo-ing' as opposed to 'bubbling'. Image credit: Ben Andrew

4. Despite being one of our most iconic spring birds, ‘our’ cuckoos only spend about three months of the year in Scotland. They spend the rest of the year in Africa. However, as it’s out with the breeding season they never sing their iconic song over there, so who has the better deal?

5. Given that they leave the parenting duties to other birds, adult cuckoos tend to leave our shores long before their offspring. That means young birds must travel thousands of miles by themselves, having no guidance and having never met their biological parents.


Have you heard a cuckoo yet this year? You can learn more about them by visiting our website.


Header image credit: Ben Andrew