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Cuckoo

species, nest, birds, eggs, tail and bird

CUCKOO, formerly spelled cuckow, the English name of a common bird, so called from the note of the male, and now generally applied to all related birds of the family Cuculida. The cuckoo of Europe, the Cnculus canoeist of ornithologists, perhaps occupies more space in general literature than any other bird, on ac count of the interest which attaches to its re markable habit of nest parasitism, and the equally remarkable hut unfounded superstitions which have collected about what is to many per sons its mysterious life. It is a common sum mer bird throughout Europe, retiring in winter to equatorial Africa, its southward migration beginning immediately after the close of the breeding season. During April, May and June the loud acuck-oop of the males is one of the most familiar of country sounds; but it wanes with the breeding season. The eggs are inva riably laid in the nests of other birds, the hedge sparrow (Accent°. modularis) and other sim ilar small species being the victims. The female cuckoo is said to deposit her egg on the ground, from which it is then conveyed in the beak to the nest selected, the rightful contents of which are often cast out. A curious circumstance, the reason for which is not fully understood, is that the cuckoo egg is often of the same color as the eggs of its hosts which remain in the nest. The young cuckoo secures the exclusive attention of its foster parents by working itself beneath any eggs or other young birds in the nest, raising on its back, and tumbling them over the edge the nest.

The true cuckoos are represented in North America by three or four species of the genus Coccypts, of which two, the yellow-billed cuckoo (C. antericatims) and the black-billed cuckoo (C. erythrophthalmus) are the best known and most widely distributed, the former ranging, with its Western variety, throughout the United 'the West Indies, and much of the ritish provinces, the latter being chiefly Eastern and migrating in winter far into South America. Both species have the bill strongly curved, stout and somewhat flattened at the base, the feet large, with very short metatarsi, the wings long and the tail long and wedge shaped. Both are of a plain, uniform, bronzy

olive-gray above and white, or nearly so, below. They are readily discriminated by the entirely blue-black bill and the absence of bold mark ings on the tail feathers of the one species, and the partly yellow bill and broad white margins of the tail of the other. In habits the two species differ but little, and except in the maw ner of deposition of their eggs, not much from the European cuckoo. Both build nests, which are mere loose platforms of twigs placed in thickets and trees, and lay a considerable but variable number of pale green eggs at long and irregular intervals, with the result that the same nest frequently contains freshly deposited eggs along with young birds. Besides the family taint, which the manner of nesting and oviposi tion suggest, both species occasionally appear to fall into the parasitic habit and place an egg in another bird's nest; it seems that not infre quently the yellow-billed species, which is the chief offender, selects her black-billed relative as the recipient of these parental courtesies. In the Northern States the cuckoos are late arrivals from the South, not appearing until the fully leaved trees and bushes afford them the con cealment which their retiring tastes demand. Their presence is soon known by the oft-re peated loud cow-cow-cow, etc., the frequent utterance of which, upon the approach of storms, has gained for them the name of rain crow. As destroyers of hairy caterpillars, which most birds pass untouched, the cuckoos deserve the esteem of horticulturists. Though subsisting largely on caterpillars they also eat other insects and occasionally fruits. The ground cuckoo or chaparral cock and the anis or Savannah blackbird are also American. The number of exotic species of cuckoo is very great, and many of them are interesting and handsome birds which are frequently exhibited in zoological gardens. See Cuctnanla.