1454. Cuculus optatus optatus

(1454) Cuculus optatus optatus Gould.
Cuculus optatus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iv, p. 140.
As some rather doubtful races of this Cuckoo have been separated our form is now given a trinomial. The typical form is a breeding bird within Indian limits from the Afghan and Baluchistan frontiers to the extreme East of Assam and Burma, It breeds at all elevations from 5,000 to 10,000 feet, and probably higher than this in its Western range. Outside our limits this or some other form of optatus breeds over the greater part of Central Asia, Siberia and its mountain ranges of Northern China.
The Himalayan Cuckoo normally lays, or deposits, its eggs in the nests of the various Warblers which lay pure white or spotted white eggs, such as those of the genera Phylloscopus and Acantho¬pneuste, which birds form practically the sole fosterers in the North¬-West Himalayas. In the Eastern Himalayas, where Phylloscopi are scarce, Acanthopneuste trochiloides harterti is the favourite fosterer when available, but many Cuckoos are parasitic on the genus Cryptolopha, which make little ball-nests of moss and lay pure white eggs.
Rattray has obtained more than one oviduct egg of this Cuckoo, and Brooks also took an egg from the oviduct of a female he shot at Ruttun Pir in Kashmir on the 17th June. This latter egg is described by Hume as “pure white, with a slight gloss. The markings, which are everywhere very scarce, are somewhat more numerous towards the larger end, and consist of minute specks and tiny lines, not more than 0-05 of an inch in length, of dingy olive-brown and very pale inky-purple or purplish grey,” This description would answer equally well for Rattray’s oviduct eggs except that in the eggs found by him the tiny specks appeared to be black. Some sixty eggs in my own collection, also, all agree. In some the markings are practically absent, while in a few they are rather more numerous though never in any way dense.
Two exceptions to the above description are two eggs, one with a faintly green-tinted ground found in the nest of a Forktail and another with an equally faint pinkish tinge taken from the nest of a Tailor-bird.
In shape the eggs are long ellipses and the texture is much less coarse than in the eggs of the Common Cuckoo, though the same gritty feeling is experienced in piercing the shell. The eggs are heavy for their size hut not exceptionally so.
In China it is possible other types of eggs are laid as Messrs, Ricketts, Styan and La Touche have taken eggs they believe to be those of this Cuckoo from the nests of Saxicola torquata and Pyctorhis sinensis. These eggs are very like those of their foster parents. The first has a pale grey-blue ground flecked with red, while the second has the ground reddish, densely blotched with darker reddish. A third type taken in the nest of a Cryptolopha is like the Indian eggs of this Cuckoo, In size and shape all agree well with the eggs laid in the Himalayas,
The principal breeding months are May and June.
Forty eggs average about 21.0 x 13.6 mm. : maxima 25.4 x 15.4 mm. ; minima 19.7 x 13.0 mm.
I have no information as to the period required for incubation, but it must of necessity be even less than that of the Common Cuckoo, or the foster parents’ eggs would be hatched too soon and the young grow too big for the young Cuckoo to be able to eject them from the neat.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 3. 1934.
Title in Book: 
1454. Cuculus optatus optatus
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Himalayan Cuckoo
Oriental Cuckoo
Cuculus optatus
Vol. 3
Term name: 

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