Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Cuckoo chick

The birds' breeding season in Scotland is now well drawing to a close with many species feeding fledglings. This is tough enough when feeding their own young, but feeding that of a Cuckoo Cuculus canorus must be especially demanding for the adult birds which have been so duped.

A young cuckoo sits in a meadow pipit nest, well camouflaged under heather
Young Cuckoos can be very noisy when begging for food, but the go silent when approached. Then they rely on their cryptic plumage to hide them in the understorey of the heather moor where their foster parents, Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis have their nest.

Young Cuckoo giving a defensive threat display
Once they know they have been detected, the young Cuckoos adopt a threatening posture, and flash their orange gape.

The young Cuckoo looks down from a fluffed-up posture
When relaxed they often take on a round, puffed out posture, holding their head back and extending a bulge of throat feathers, so typical of cuckoo species.

Young cuckoos have a bright orange gape
Their bright orange gape acts as an exaggerated stimulus for their foster parents to supply the extra amount of food required by the young Cuckoo above the demands of a normal brood of four smaller chicks.

The empty nest after the bird had fledged
Once the bird has left the nest, it is recognisable as having held a young Cuckoo by the widened and flattened shape of the nest cup.

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