Bird song (20) – Cuckoo

Cuckoo. Photo: Tim Melling

Surely you know what a Cuckoo sounds like? But how often do you hear them these days, I wonder? They are much rare now, particularly in southern England and I hear them less often than formerly.

I’ve only once heard a Cuckoo from my garden and that was in May 2014. Maybe I’m in with a chance again this year as I’m spending more time in the garden and there is less traffic and aircraft noise.

This one was singing in France last week;

And this one is Dutch:

And here is a Cuckoo from Norfolk:

They aren’t all exactly the same are they? But they are all very recognisably Cuckoos.

Easy? Yes, but many people are misled by Collared Doves every year so listen carefully not carelessly.


5 Replies to “Bird song (20) – Cuckoo”

  1. Yes, the song is much rarer these last few years. And the female’s strange bubbling call has not been heard for over a couple of decades.
    Cuckoos are early morning performers and can be heard far and wide in the twilit dawn air whose coolness allows their notes to travel at their best. The Cuckoos here tend to start singing about five minutes after the first Robin and about ten minutes before the first Wren. After that time the dawn chorus begins to drown out any distant birds.

    1. But the Sussex ornithologist, Stanley Morris in his book, BIRD-SONG (1925), says the Cuckoo frequently sings the through the night at the height of the breeding season. That’s interesting. Perhaps the Cuckoo has a short rest or sleep period at the end of the night before waking or responding to the first glimmers of dawn. Or, may be the bird’s nocturnal habits have changed since Morris’s time?

  2. We have heard Cuckoo calling from here in our Mid Wales garden over the last couple of years prior to that there were years when we failed to hear it. Not heard one yet this year but it is still quite early.
    As a child on the edge of Harrogate it was an ever present sound in the fields around about especially on early May mornings. Given that Cuckoos have various hosts I suspect those in Harrogate were probably “Dunnock Cuckoos” whilst those here in Wales and in the Yorkshire Dales I’ve heard more recently are “Meadow Pipit Cuckoos.” To me at least it seems “Dunnock Cuckoos” have declined more than “Meadow Pipit Cuckoos” but I could be wrong.

  3. Our Otmoor cuckoos parasitise reed warblers and sound most like the Norfolk one. One year we had one with a stammer that called cu-cu-koo. Most years we get at least one rufous form.

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