|Male and female common cuckoo|
A couple of weeks ago I plodded along Stanage Edge from the north. It was a lovely day, calm and peaceful with hardly a breath of wind.
At High Neb, I looked down upon the small moorland plantation at Dennis Knoll and I became as still and quiet as the day itself. That is when I heard the unmistakable sound of a male common cuckoo calling for a mate. He would have flown to us all the way from Africa like countless generations before him.
His repeated cuckooing song rang out like music from distant history, echoing insistently over the heather. I pictured him sitting bright-eyed upon a perch in the little plantation following his instincts without question, patiently calling.
Click on the arrow to hear the sound of the male European cuckoo.
As Wikipedia explains, "The common cuckoo is an obligate brood parasite; it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. At the appropriate moment, the hen cuckoo flies down to the host's nest, pushes one egg out of the nest, lays an egg and flies off. The whole process takes about 10 seconds. A female may visit up to 50 nests during a breeding season. Common cuckoos first breed at the age of two years."
Linked to this well-known habit there are two other amazing things to note about the cuckoo. It is capable of mimicking the songs of other birds for the purposes of distraction and the female is capable of producing eggs of different sizes, shapes and colours that mimic the host bird's eggs.