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Unbelievable: Cuckoos, the birds that let other birds do the hatching and caring of their youngs

Updated on September 9, 2012
a pair of cuckoos
a pair of cuckoos
wren (left) is foster mother of the big cuckoo chick..  It got food for the parasite chick.
wren (left) is foster mother of the big cuckoo chick.. It got food for the parasite chick.
a cuckoo egg in a host's nest
a cuckoo egg in a host's nest
a cuckoo chick in a host's nest
a cuckoo chick in a host's nest

Cuckoos- Parasite birds

How does the cuckoo get other birds to bring up its young?, asked by Myn Is Me

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Nature makes the cuckoo an interesting study. It is a bird that disturbs other birds, especially during its period of production. Like other birds, the female cuckoo lays eggs. Its eggs hatches too into birdlings. But by nature it doesn’t like to sit on its eggs to hatch. It can’t. It has no nest. Cuckoos don’t know how to build one.

So how do cuckoos propagate their offspring?

Very interesting. The female cuckoos lay their eggs in the nest of other birds and let the foster mother bird sit, hatch, feed and care for their youngs. Very ironical indeed.

Female cuckoos conduct a thorough study of the characteristics of a host species, and lays camouflaged eggs in that bird's nest. If the female cuckoo lays eggs in a red warbler’s nest, for instance, her eggs look exactly the same as that of a red warbler.

A female cuckoo who’s about to lay an egg, spends long hours from a vantage point spying the birds at the nest where she intends to lay an egg. A master of deceit, the cuckoo flew in jet-like fashion towards the nest, lay her egg in haste while the hosts are away. Timing is important so that the hosts will not get suspicious of the eggs. If the cuckoo’s egg is laid first before the host, it is scratched out by the host. It’s her way of saying that the egg isn’t hers. If the cuckoo lays her egg too late after the warbler has finished laying, this trick is likewise noticed by the host who lost no time in ridding the egg out.

To lay her succeeding eggs, the cuckoo, who has now acquired enough cunning skills, took every opportunity while the warblers are away, pushes out of the nest a warbler’s egg and lay her egg in replacement. This process took place about 10 seconds only.

However a considerable number of the invader’s eggs are left unnoticed by the red warbler so during sitting time all the eggs, a mixture of cuckoos and warblers are brooded and cared for by the red warbler couple till they hatch.

Cuckoo birdlings grew very fast. They push other eggs and warbler chicks outside the nest. Voracious eater with big mouths, Cuckoo birdlings at 14 days grew 3 times the size of the adult red warbler. They make rapid chirping voices which readily convince the warblers to believe that the nest is full of their own red warbler chicks.

About 56 of old world species and 3 of new world species of cuckoos are categorized as brood parasites. This means they lay their eggs in the nests of other kinds of birds, who then rear the baby cuckoo instead of their own.

Cuckoo eggs contain shells that are thick which is nature’s way to avoid cracking when dropped in the host nest.

Time comes when host species are already at high risk of cuckoo eggs in their nests. They take action to stop cuckoos from laying eggs in their nests by mobbing and driving them out of the area.

Cuckoo birds are known worldwide. The male cuckoo sings a dual note which sounds like “cu-ckoo” while the female produces a loud bubbling call.

Cuckoos are migrant birds. During spring they travel to Europe and Asia. They find warmth and solace in Africa during winters. They stay for about 10 weeks only in their summer locations.

Male cuckoos are dark grey in colors while the females are similar but a bit reddish on the upper breast. They love to eat hairy caterpillars. They appear like small bird of prey while in flight. Woods bordering open lands are their habitat.

Source: Cuckoo


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