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Common Cuckoo
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Common Cuckoo

Common Cuckoo
Scientific classification
Genus: Cucullus
Binomial name
Cucullus canorus
The Common Cuckoo (Cucullus canorus) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes, which also includes the roadrunners, the anis, the coucals, and the Hoatzin.

It is a widespead summer migrant to Europe and western Asia, and winters in Africa. It is a brood parasite, which lays its eggs in the nests particularly of Dunnocks, Meadow Pipits, and Reed Warblers.

Female Cuckoos favour a particular host species, and lay eggs which match that species' in colour and pattern. The exception is in the case of the Dunnock, where the Cuckoo's egg has no resemblance to its hosts' blue eggs. This is thought to be because the Dunnock is a recent host, and has not acquired the ability to distinguish eggs.

The chick which hatches from the egg laid in the other species' nest methodically evicts all other occupants of the nest, a behaviour that was first described by Edward Jenner. This is necessary since it is a much larger bird than its hosts, and needs to monopolise the parents' food supplies.

This cuckoo is a greyish bird with a slender body, long tail and strong legs. The females only are sometimes brown, the ”hepatic” phase. It looks like a small bird of prey in flight, although the wings stay below the horizontal.

It is a bird of open country. Its food is insects, with hairy caterpillars, which are distasteful to many birds, being a speciality.

The cuckoo group gets its English and scientific names from the call of the male Common Cuckoo, usually given from an open perch, goo-ko. The female has a loud bubbling call. In England, hearing the call of the Cuckoo is regarded as the first harbinger of spring, and The Times newspaper notoriously features correspondence every year reporting the first calls.

The word "cuckold" derives from the Cuckoo's practice of tricking other birds into raising its young.