1104. Cuculus canorus

1104. Cuculus canorus.

The Cuckoo.

Cuculus canorus, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 168; Blyth, Cat. p. 71; Horsf. & M. Cat. ii, p. 702; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 322; id. Ibis, 1872, p. 12; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, p. 22 ; Blanford, J. A. S. B. xxxviii, pt. 2, p. 168; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 267; McMaster, J. A. S. B. xl, pt. 2, p. 209; Cock & Marsh. S. F. i, p. 351; Adam, ibid. p. 373; Hume, S. F. iv, p. 288; xi, p. 69; id. Cat. no. 199; Butler, S. F. vii, p. 181; Ball, ibid. p. 206; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 253; id. Ibis, 1881, p. 430; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 221; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 49; Swinhoe, Ibis, 1882, p. 103; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 103; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 124; St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 159; Oates, ibid. p. 355; id. in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 379 ; Shelley, Cat. B. M. xix, p. 245.

The European Cuckoo, Jerdon; Phuphu, H., Dehra Dun; Kupwah, Kumaun ; Kukku, Lepcha; Akku, Bhot.

Coloration. Adult male. Whole upper plumage dark ashy, the rump and upper tail-coverts rather paler; wings browner, with a gloss; quills barred with white on the inner webs except near the tips; chin, throat, sides of the neck, and upper breast pale ashy; lower breast, abdomen, and flanks white, with narrow blackish cross-bars; under tail-coverts the same, but more sparingly barred; edge of wing mixed white and black; tail blackish brown,- tipped with white, the inner webs notched with white, and some white spots along the shaft of each feather.

The adult female only differs in having the upper breast, and sometimes the sides of the neck, rufous.

The young pass through two well-defined stages of plumage before arriving at maturity. In the first or nestling stage, the colour is dark brown above, indistinctly barred with rufous, each feather margined with white; a white nuchal spot is present from the earliest age; the lower plumage is broadly barred brownish black and white, black preponderating on the throat and upper breast. When the bird is fully fledged, the white edges to the feathers wear off to some extent, and the rufous bars are lost on all parts except the wings ; the tail is very similar to that of the adult, but browner.

In the second stage the black bars on the lower plumage become narrower; the whole upper plumage, wings, and tail are barred with pale rufous, the white margins still remaining; the nuchal spot is retained nearly to the end of the second stage, and disappears only when the birds begins to acquire ashy patches on the upper plumage. The transition from one stage of plumage to the other is gradual, and every intermediate form occurs.

The chief distinctive character in the young of this species is the white nuchal spot, which is seldom wanting. In the nearly allied C. saturatus this spot very rarely if ever occurs; and in the small C. poliocephalus a white nape-patch is only present in one stage, the second, and is often accompanied by a white half-collar extending round the hind-neck.

The above changes are effected without any moult, by a change of colour in the feathers. The adult plumage is assumed in the spring of the year after birth, but apparently the birds do not moult till in their second autumn. The same is the case with the next two species.

Bill dusky horn, yellowish at the base and edges; gape orange-yellow; iris and legs yellow; the young have the iris brown, and the lower mandible pale green.

Length about 13 ;tail 6.7 to 7.3; wing 8 to 9, and occasionally longer tarsus .8; bill from gape 1.25.

Distribution. A migratory bird found at one season or another throughout the greater part of the Old World and even in Australia. The Cuckoo, in the months from July to April, may be found in almost any part of India, Ceylon, or Burma, but to the southward is of rare occurrence. It is common-, throughout the Himalayas and the hills of Afghanistan and Baluchistan in the breeding-season, May and June, but it has been found at the same period, April, May, and June, by several observers, by myself amongst others, in the forest country between Chutia Nagpur and the Godavari, so that it probably breeds there. Col. McMaster observed it at the same season near Saugor, Kamptee, and Chikalda, and Mr. Adam at Sambhar. Captain Butler believes that it breeds on Mount Abu. Wardlaw Ramsay found this species common in Karennee in March, and Oates shot a very young bird in Pegu on August 8th, so it probably breeds in the Burmese hills.

Habits, &c. The food of the Cuckoo consists of caterpillars, grubs, worms, and soft-bodied insects. The flight is swift and singularly like that of a Hawk. The bisyllabic call, from which the bird derives its name in many languages, is only heard in the breeding-season, and is peculiar to the male bird. At times the first half of the call is uttered by itself, occasionally a treble note is produced, but both are exceptional.

The breeding-season, in India, is in May and June, and eggs of this bird have been found in the nests of Pipits (Oreocorys sylvanus and Anthus similis), Bush-Chats (Pratincola caprata, P. maura, Oreicola ferrea), and the Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis). The eggs vary greatly in colour, some are much pinker than others; the ground-colour varies from white to pink, spotted, streaked, and mottled with brownish or yellowish red and pale purple. The size is about .97 by .72.

* A remarkable instance of a Cuckoo (C. canorus) hatching her own egg and feeding her young is related in the ' Ibis' for 1889, p. 219.

The Fauna Of British India including Ceylon and Burma
Blanford, William Thomas, ed. The Fauna of British India: Including Ceylon and Burma. Vol.3 1895.
Title in Book: 
1104. Cuculus canorus
Book Author: 
William Thomas Blanford
Page No: 
Common name: 
Common Cuckoo
Cuculus canorus
Vol. 3
Term name: 

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