Interesting facts about cuckoos


The cuckoos are birds of of the Cuculidae family.

There are approximately 140 species of cuckoos found throughout the world.

They are found on all continents except Antarctica.

Cuckoos occur in a wide variety of habitats. The majority of species occur in forests and woodland, principally in the evergreen rainforests of the tropics.

The average lifespan is from 4 to 6 years in the wild.

The channel-billed cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae) is the world’s largest cuckoo, measuring between 58 and 66 centimeters (23 and 26 inches) long and weighing between 550 and 935 grams (1.213 and 2.061 pounds)

channel billed cuckoo

The smallest cuckoo species is the little bronze cuckoo (Chrysococcyx minutillus), at 17 grams (0.6 ounce) and 15 centimeters (6 inches).

little bronze cuckoo

Cuckoos are slender-bodied, long-tailed birds with medium to stout down-curved bills, pointed wings and short legs (except in the terrestrial species).

One of the most important distinguishing features of the cuckoos are the feet, which are zygodactyl, meaning that the two inner toes point forward and the two outer backward.

There is considerable variation in the plumage exhibited by the family. Some species, particularly the brood parasites have cryptic plumage, whereas others have bright and elaborate plumage.


The feathers of the cuckoos are generally soft, and often become waterlogged in heavy rain. Cuckoos often sun themselves after rain, and the anis hold their wings open in the manner of a vulture or cormorant while drying.

The cuckoos are for the most part solitary birds that rerly occur in pairs or groups.

For the most part the cuckoos are diurnal, but many species call at night.

Cuckoos are often highly secretive and in many cases best known for their wide repertoire of calls. Calls are usually relatively simple, resembling whistles, flutes, or hiccups.

The cuckoo gets its names because the male Common Cuckoo sings two notes which sound like the word “cu – ckoo.”


The cuckoo is named in most languages after its call. In France, for example, it is known as the coucou, in Holland koekoek, in Germany kuckuk, in Russia kukush-ka and in Japan kak-ko.

Most species of cuckoo are sedentary, but some undertake regular seasonal migrations and others undertake partial migrations over part of their range. Species breeding at higher latitudes migrate to warmer climates during the winter due to food availability.

The majority  are arboreal, with a sizeable minority that are terrestrial.

Of the terrestrial cuckoos, the roadrunner found in the southwestern United States and Mexico is best known. It can run at speeds up to 32 kilometer per hour (15 miles per hour).


Most cuckoos are insectivorous, and in particular are specialised in eating larger insects and caterpillars, including noxious hairy types avoided by other birds.

The cuckoos are an extremely diverse group of birds with regards to breeding systems.

The majority of species are monogamous, but there are exceptions.

The majority of cuckoo species build their own nests. Most of these species nest in trees or bushes.

About 60 cuckoo species are brood parasites, laying its eggs in the nest of other species and will provide no parental care of its young. They plant their egg into other species nests. Young Cuckoos hatch before the nesting bird’s own eggs and it pushes out the rest of the eggs. A cuckoo chick will often grow to be much larger than its unsuspecting foster parent.

cuckoo chick

Few cuckoo species lay their eggs in communal nests, although this behaviour is not completely cooperative; a female may remove others’ eggs when laying hers.

They are not listed as endangered, but their number in certain areas declined as a result of habitat loss.

Cuckoos have played a role in human culture for thousands of years, appearing in Greek mythology as sacred to the goddess Hera.

In Europe, the cuckoo is associated with spring, and with cuckoldry, for example in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost.

In India, cuckoos are sacred to Kamadeva, the god of desire and longing, whereas in Japan, the cuckoo symbolises unrequited love.

The well-known cuckoo clock features a mechanical bird and is fitted with bellows and pipes that imitate the call of the common cuckoo.

The Piano Sonata No. 25 in G major, Op. 79, was written by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1809. It is alternatively titled “Cuckoo.”