CUCKOOS of Europe and their Allies

Order Cuculiformes   Family Cuculidae

In addition to cuckoos, the cuckoo family Cuculidae also includes the roadrunners, koels, malkohas, couas, coucals and anis. The coucals and anis are sometimes separated as distinct families. The cuckoos are generally medium sized slender birds. The majority are of the cuculidae family are arboreal, with a sizeable minority that are terrestrial. Most are tropical and the temperate species are migratory. The cuckoos feed on insects, insect larva, as well as fruit. Many species are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other species, but the majority of species raise their own young. Cuckoos are medium sized birds that range in size from 15-63 cm. There is generally little sexual dimorphism in size, but where it exists, it can be either the male or the female that is larger. There are two basic body forms, arboreal species which are slender and have short tarsi, and terrestrial species which are more heavy set and have long tarsi. Almost all species have long tails which are used for steering in terrestrial species and as a rudder during flight in the arboreal species.

OLD WORLD - Brood Parasitic

Brood parasitic birds lay their eggs in other species' nests. Most only parasitize a single host species or a small group of closely related host species. They tend to remove a host egg when they lay one of their own in a nest. This both prevents the host species from realizing their nest has been parasitized and reduces competition for the parasitic nestling once it hatches. Some brood parasites will eliminate all their nestmates shortly after hatching. If the host removes a parasitic egg or chick, the adult parasitic birds may retaliate by destroying the nest.

The Old World brood parastic species tend to conform to the classic shape, with (usually) long tails, short legs, long narrow wings and an arboreal lifestyle. The largest species, the channel-billed cuckoo, also has the most outsized bill in the family, resembling that of a hornbill.

Genus Cacomantis
The genus name is derived from the Greek kakos meaning evil or ill-boding and mantis for prophet and is derived from their association with "rains" being supposed to be predict ill fortune and bad weather. Most of them have a round nostril and are mainly in brown and gray colo rs. The tails are graduated and barred.

Genus Clamator
All Clamator cuckoos are brood parasites, which lay a single egg in the nests of medium sized hosts, such as magpies, starlings, shrikes, laughingthrushes, bulbuls and babblers, depending on location. Clamator cuckoos are found in warmer parts of southern Europe and Asia, and in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. These are birds of warm open scrubby habitats, but some species are at least partially migratory, leaving for warmer and wetter areas in winter.These are large cuckoos, with broad chestnut wings and long narrow tails. They are strikingly patterned with black, white and brown plumage. The sexes are similar but the juvenile plumages are distinctive.

Cuckool, Great-spotted  Clamator glandarius  Found: southwest Europe, western Asia
The Great-spotted Cuckoo chick emits a repellant that helps protect it and the host chicks from predators.
Image by: 1) Eran Finkle  2) Johann du Preez 3) Francesco Veronesi - Spain 
1) Juvenile

Genus Cuculus
These Old World cuckoos lay a single egg in the host's nest. The cuckoo chick hatches earlier and grows faster than the host's chicks. It usually evicts the host's eggs or chicks from the nest. These are vocal species, with persistent and loud calls. They feed on large insects, with hairy caterpillars, which are distasteful to many birds.

Cuckoo, Common  Cuculus canorus  Found: Europe, Asia, Africa
The Common Cuckoo has gray upperparts; pale underparts with dark bars; dark wings.
Image by: 1) Steve Garvie - Scotland  2) Vogelartinfo  3) Cristiano Crolle - West Coast National Park, South Africa

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