Saturday, 29 November 2008


Not a seasonal subject but I was looking through some
British Birds backdates and came across an article I had published in the January 2002 issue relating to some behaviour I observed which at the time intrigued me and thought it might make interesting reading.

The call of the Common Cuckoo.

On 14 June 1997 at Barbondale in Cumbria I watched a male Common Cuckoo at close range through a telescope. I had excellent views of the bird which was calling continuously for several minutes before flying off. During the observation I soon realised that the call was produced nasally since the bill remained closed throughout. Further observations of another Cuckoo on 8 June 1999 in similar circumstances seemed to confirm that the species does indeed call with the bill closed.

An editorial comment at the foot of this article pointed out that BWP states that the first syllable of the familiar call of the male Cuckoo is in fact delivered with the bill open, whereas the second syllable is uttered with the bill closed.

There was some added interest in this subject when in the September 2002 issue of British Birds there was a response to my article by someone who had spent 34 years living in Pakistan, and in the outer Himalayan foothills had been able to observe Common Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, and the much less common Lesser Cuckoo. He had noted that all three species had kept their bill's closed when calling, whilst the gular pouch ballooned out visibly with each call.

The Robin.

There is absolutely no connection to this article with this pic which is the only such one of the species I ever took in far more years than I care to remember of my interest in photography.
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