Cuculus canorus, Linn. Syst. Nat. i. p. 168 (1766) ; Naum. v. p. 196, Taf. 127, 128, 129 ; Hewitson, i. p. 251, pls. xiii. figs. 1, 2 ; Gould, B. of E. iii. pl. 240 ; id. B. of Gt. Brit. iii. pls. 67, 68 ; Newton, ii. p. 387 ; Dresser, v. p. 199, pl. 299 ; David and Oust. Ois. Chine, p. 64 ; Shelley, Cat. B. Br. Mus. xix, p. 245 ; Blanf. F. Brit. Ind. Birds, iii. p. 205 ; Tacz. F. O. Sib. O. p. 685 ; Saunders, p. 287 ; Seebohm, B. Jap. Emp. p. 169 ; Lilford, ii. p. 21, pl. 10 ; C. hepaticus Sparrm. Mus. Carls, p. 55 (1789).
Coucou gris, French ; Cuco, Portug. ; Cucu, Span. ; Cuculo, Ital. ; Kuckuk, German ; Koekoek, Dutch ; Gjog, Dan. ; Gjok, Norweg. ; Gok, Swed. ; Kaki, Finn. ; Kiekka, Lapp. ; Kukushka, Russ. ; Takouk, Moor. ; Tagug, Arab.; Phuphu, Hindu. ; Kukku, Lepch. ; Kakko, Jap.
Male ad. (England). Upper parts dark bluish ash, paler on the head and bluer on the rump and upper tail-coverts ; quills ashy brown barred with white on the inner web ; tail graduated, blackish, spotted and tipped with white ; throat and upper breast pale ashy blue ; rest of the under parts white barred with blackish ; bill blackish horn, at the base and along the edge yellowish ; gape orange yellow ; legs and iris yellow. Culmen 0.9, wing 8.35, tail 7.0, tarsus, 0.92 inch. Sexes alike. The young bird is deep clove-brown above, barred with pale rusty brown, the feathers mostly tipped with white, and a white spot on the nape ; quills dark brown barred with ferruginous and tipped with white, the inner webs barred with white ; tail clove-brown barred with ferruginous and spotted and tipped with white ; under parts buffy white, warmer in tinge on the abdomen, and barred with blackish. A peculiar hepatic plumage, much more rufous than that of the young bird is not seldom retained over the first year.
Hab. All Europe up to, or a little beyond the Arctic Circle ; Africa as far south as Natal and Damaraland ; Madeira ; Canaries ; Asia from lat. 67° N. south to Celebes and east to Japan. It breeds in the northern and central portions of its range, wintering in the south.
In its general habits it is wild and shy, and is but seldom seen though so often heard. On the wing it resembles a Hawk and is tolerably swift, but on the ground it is ungainly, pro¬gressing by means of short hops. The well-known call is uttered by the male, and the note of the female is a laughing Quickwickwick preluded by a low, harsh sound. Its food con¬sists almost exclusively of insects of various kinds, especially of hairy caterpillars, but it also eats small snails and even seeds.
Much has been written on the breeding of the Cuckoo, but I may briefly remark that this species does not pair, and that the female has indiscriminate intercourse with several males. The egg is probably laid on the ground and the female takes it in her bill and places it in the nest of the bird she has selected as a foster-parent. The eggs vary considerably in colour and markings but it seems that each female produces regularly eggs similar in appearance, and probably, if possible, selects the same species as foster-parent for her offspring as has been the foster-parent to herself, but this has scarcely yet been proved to be the case. When hatched, the young Cuckoo soon ejects the eggs or young of its foster-parent from the nest. A female is said to produce as many as 20 eggs in the season, and gener¬ally one but sometimes two, the produce of different birds, are placed in the same nest. As above stated, the eggs differ considerably in appearance, and greenish-blue varieties have been found, but as a rule the usual colours are greyish green or greyish rufous, mottled and spotted with various shades of brown, and in size average 0.88 by 0.65, and they are as a rule very close grained in the shell and proportionately heavy. Many species of birds in whose nests Cuckoos’ eggs have been found are enumerated by different authors, and Dr. Rey gives a list of 146 of such.
670. Cuculus canorus