First Cuckoo

The 14th April is St. Tiburtius Day and is traditionally when you will hear the first cuckoo, as celebrated in Rudyard Kipling’s Cuckoo Song:

Cuckoo, bring your song here!
Warrant, Act and Summons, please,
For Spring to pass along here!

The cuckoo migrates north from Africa and the date of its arrival, although traditionally the 14th April, varies in different parts of the country.

The first sighting is often in the far South West, in the Isle of Scilly and then gradually moves northwards. In recent years the cuckoo has tended to arrive on average five days earlier than usual, likely due to climate change.

On hearing the first cuckoo in spring it is traditional to pen a letter to The Times, but you can also send your reports to us – we’d love to hear from you. Just let us know when and where you heard it.

Every year we get lots of people telling us they’ve heard cuckoos well before April. Even if the weather is mild cuckoos are very unlikely to  have returned from Africa that early. So it’s probably a case of mistaken identity. If you think you’ve heard a cuckoo very early on check it’s not a collared dove.

We also receive a few pictures of’ ‘cuckoos’ each year. These are usually photos of fieldfares but people have occasionally mistaken sparrowhawks for cuckoos too. 

First Cuckoo Wickford 2020

Sarah Link heard a cuckoo yesterday in Essex. 

She said, “My garden is next to the trees alongside the Wickford to Southminster train line. I am used to various birds (wood pigeon, robins, blackbirds, magpies, crows).

“Yesterday Wed 2nd April 2020 at 10.00am I heard a cuckoo.

“Haven’t heard one in years and was quite excited at the sound, so used to the doves and pigeons but this was definately a cuckoo.”

First Cuckoo Fort William 2020

John Stuart Craig heard a cuckoo today at Roy Bridge nr Fort William.

First Cuckoo Dalmally 2020

Scott Gibson heard a cuckoo on the 30th March in Dalmally, Argyll.

First Cuckoo Blakedown 2020

Chris Perry heard a cuckoo calling at approximately 2:00 pm yesterday in Blakedown, Worcestershire.

First Cuckoo Pershore 2020

Linda Hamlin heard a cuckoo today while working in her garden in Pershore, Worcestershire. 

She said, “I was so surprised I stopped work to see if I could pinpoint where the cuckoo was. It appeared to be very close. We have a wetland area about half a mile from us and I assume the cuckoos return to use the nests of the reed buntings which nest there.”

First Cuckoo Skegby 2020

Shirley Gregory heard a cuckoo at about 2:00 pm today in Skegby, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

First Cuckoo Coventry 2020

Michael Fitzgerald heard a cuckoo in Coventry today. 

First Cuckoo Blackbird Leys 2020

Russell Price heard a cuckoo today at Blackbird Leys, Oxfordshire. 

He said, “I was at the allotment very early to adjust window closing devices on a greenhouse and was taking advantage of the deep frost. I heard the song coming from woods the other side of the Mini car plant”

First Cuckoo Beckenham 2020

Claire Bowden-Dan heard a cuckoo today in Beckenham Place Park.

First Cuckoo Woolley Moor 2020

Anne Matanle emailed us to say she saw a cuckoo yesterday in Woolley Moor, Derbyshire. 

She said, “I didn’t actually hear a cuckoo, but a male came and perched on my neighbour’s cherry tree.

“I was siting in my window with my binoculars as many birds are accustomed to landing on my neighbour’s trees as she has been feeding the birds for years.

“I was waiting to see how many greenfinches or chaffinches have recovered and it just landed within my sights!

“It didn’t stay long and I don’t yet know if my neighbour also saw it.”

First Cuckoo Haslemere 202

John Casey heard a cuckoo on the 14th March 600 m from Black Down car park above Haslemere.

He said, “Very early to hear a cuckoo but 2 of us on a walk heard it.”

First Cuckoo Repps With Bastwick 2020

Sally Mitchell heard a cuckoo in Repps With Bastwick, Norfolk. 

She added, “Heard whilst working on the farm – something to lighten the gloom!”

First Cuckoo Sutton 2020

Pat Bains emailed to tell us she heard a cuckoo today in Sutton, Suffolk.

She said she heard it from the kitchen and ran outside to see it flying over the garden. Her husband saw it too.

They’ve been birding 50 years and this is the earliest for them – she thinks the earliest recorded is the 14th March in Sutton.

First Cuckoo Humberston Fitties 2020

Stephen Burres heard a cuckoo on the 11th March. He was very surprised to heart this early, but after listening it to a while, it was definitely a cuckoo.

First Cuckoo Eye 2020

Pamela Houghton wrote to tell us that her hubby woke her at 6.40 am this morning and it was definitely a cuckoo that they heard. It was very distinct.

She added, “We live in the country so are used to what collared doves and other birds sound like.”

First Cuckoo Beaumont Chase 2020

Edwin Timewell wrote to tell us he and his friend heard and saw a cuckoo on the 5th March near Beaumont Chase, Leicestershire.

He said, “I did not hear the cuckoo but my friend Lee Overton and I saw the cuckoo flying very low skimming over a hedgerow at speed and swerved low over the road between us an oncoming car.

“It maintained its height and skimmed over the hedgerow on the opposite side of the road. Both Lee and I are experienced bird watchers who have seen cuckoos before and had a close up view of the bird.

“We are in no doubt that it was a cuckoo and clearly saw the grey barring of its chest plumage .The weather was cold, windy, and rainy and there had recently been storms from the South West.

“Given its purposeful and low flight, we may postulate that it had been driven down by gales and rain from higher altitude and it was now flying low over the ground for lift and that it was headed North through central England.

“Being so early in the year, maybe this was headed to Scotland on migration?

“Amazing to see so early in the year and a welcome harbinger of spring!”

First Cuckoo Cowley 2020

Ian Oliver heard a cuckoo in Cowley, Oxfordshire on the 12th March. 

He commented, “This seems earlier than normal to hear a cuckoo in the park.”

First Cuckoo Andover 2020

Jo Harris wrote to tell us she was visiting her sister in a village outside Andover and woke up to hear a cuckoo in the woods.

She said, “I know this is very unusual but definitely know the difference between a wood pigeon and cuckoo.”

It is too early for cuckoos to have returned from Africa so what Jo heard was probably a collared dove which often get mistaken for cuckoos at this time of year.

First Cuckoo Ewerby 2020

Vicki Hooton emailed to say she heard a cuckoo today in Ewerby, Lincolnshire.

She said, “I can’t believe I’m hearing a cuckoo in my garden at the beginning of February?!! I had to stand listening to make sure I was hearing correctly.’

It is far too early for cuckoos to have arrived back to the UK to breed so unfortunately Vicki must have been mistaken. 

First Cuckoo Vowchurch 2020

Ivor Scott emailed us to let us know he heard a cuckoo in Hampshire on the 30th January. 

He wrote. “On Thursday morning I was working with 2 staff from the Countryside Restoration Trust at their property, Turnastone Court Farm, Vowchurch, Herefordshire. I heard a bird calling and at first dismissed it as it was far too early for a cuckoo. 

“However, the other two confirmed it was a cuckoo. We heard it call on two occasions during the morning. Unmistakably a cuckoo. 

“Is this something we should report? It seems significant as very early in the year.”

It is very unlikely that what Ivor heard was a cuckoo as they have not yet returned from their wintering grounds of Africa. 

We get some reports of people hearing cuckoos at this time of year which are most probably the calls of collared doves. 

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