Key facts

Scientific name: Cuculus canorus

Status: Breeding summer visitor

Breeding pairs: 16,000

Conservation status: Red

Length: 32 – 36 cm

Wingspan: 54 – 60 cm

Weight: 105 – 130 g


Cuckoos have slate-grey heads, breast and upperparts with blackish barring on the underparts and white spots and tips on the tail.

Female cuckoos are similar to the male but instead of being grey they are reddish-brown.

Cuckoos’ eyes and legs are yellow and their slightly curved bill has a yellow base with a darker tip.

Juvenile cuckoos are similar to the female, but with a white patch on the nape and white edges and tips of its dark feathers.


Cuckoos are brood parasites which means they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, most often dunnocks’ and robins’ nests, and they leave the host birds to incubate and rear their young.

Female cuckoos lay their eggs with similar markings to the host bird’s eggs. The eggs are incubated for 11-12 days.

When the chicks hatch, they instinctively push the other eggs and nestlings out of the nest and they are then fed with the food brought back by the unsuspecting surrogate parents.

Baby cuckoos fledge after 17-21 days.


Cuckoos eat insects; mainly hairy caterpillars, beetles and ants but also dragonflies, crickets and mayflies.


Where to see them

Adult cuckoos arrive in the UK in late March and April and leave for Africa in July with juveniles leaving a month later.

They can be seen throughout the UK but are mostly found in southern and central England.


Albert Lastukhin/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The common cuckoo is the only member of the family that calls cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo.

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