I’m fascinated by this cheat, thief, and killer.
Cuckoos are the freeloaders of the bird world. Some of them chuck out all the eggs and chicks from the nests of other birds. Others lay their eggs alongside another bird’s eggs. Either way, these con artists watch their potential victims closely. A cuckoo’s egg ~ like a bomb ~ must be perfectly timed. Too late, and it will not hatch ~ too soon, and it will be discovered.
When a nest is left unattended, the female cuckoo flies down, lays her egg within seconds and then leaves, taking another egg from the nest in her mouth. The unsuspecting bird returns and inspects the nest but rarely notices anything amiss because the cuckoo egg so closely resembles her own. Want to see the dastardly cuckoo in action? Don’t miss the beginning of this footage. David Attenborough is my go-to BirdMan. I think he’s the world’s master wildlife documentary presenter.
Here’s a hoodwinked Mama warbler feeding her ‘chick’ ~ how’s that for cruel deception?
Cuckoos, more often heard than seen, have a binotonous song. Go ahead ~ sing it out. You know you want to. A mere two notes. I say, that’s monotonous times two.
But some composers thought otherwise. Listen to Bird Note. Their writers are birders that transport you out of the daily grind. Today, it’s a cuckoo/Mahler mashup. http://birdnote.s3.amazonaws.com/Birdnote/2013/06-Jun-2013/130616-Mahlers-Cuckoo.mp3
In England, the legend is that an old man threw a hollow log on his fire one wintry April day. A cuckoo flew out of it and ~ socko-boffo! the weather turned warm and spring-like. (The English actually celebrate this on the Sunday nearest to April 28, it’s called Cuckoo Feast.)
So, the superstition goes like this ~ When you hear that binotonous song for the very first time in spring, and if you have a few coins in your pocket, that means you’ll have good luck. But if you’re fasting or in bed when the cuckoo sings, or – egad – standing on stony, barren ground instead of verdant meadow, the year ahead will be, well, less than stellar.
Hey, it’s spring. A resplendently brilliant season. Why wouldn’t you be lolling on green green grass?