Great Spotted Cuckoo

Clamator glandarius

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The great spotted cuckoo is widely distributed from the Mediterranean to southern Africa. It breeds mainly in the open savannah-like heath and wooded landscaped of the Iberian Peninsula, in western Turkey and in southern Africa. Its medium-sized, long, slender body with long tail and short legs is characteristic of cuckoos. It has a restless flight and can often be observed with raised tail hopping around on the ground. In comparison to native cuckoos, its wings are wider yet less pointed at the ends, while the tail is longer and narrower. Its plumage is highly patterned. The upperparts are dark with innumerable small, white spots. Juveniles have a black cap and bronze-coloured primary wing feathers. Like “our cuckoo”, this insect eater, which is not shy of a great, big hairy caterpillar or two, is also a classic brood parasite. Corvids are its preferred choice of host bird. As opposed to the parasitic behaviour of the common cuckoo, eggs from the host bird are left to hatch alongside the stealth eggs laid in the host’s nest, although with a significantly reduced reproduction rate than in non-parasitic broods. The laying of a brood is closely coordinated between both the male and female birds - the male distracts the female host, while the female lays her egg in the host nest within a matter of seconds. Females are known to revisit the host nest a number of times to try to lay their eggs. The eggs imitate those of the host. They are, however, noticeably less varied in colour than those of the common cuckoo.

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