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Notes from St Tiggywinkles: Bon voyage to cuckoo as he heads to Congo

Cuckoo heading for the Congo

Cuckoo heading for the Congo

  • by Les Stocker, founder of St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital in Haddenham
 

We all know the cuckoo, its song and its nesting habits.

But how many of us have actually seen one.

This year Sue and I saw, for the first time, an adult flying across the road in front of us.

At Tiggys we will usually take in one each year.

Youngsters who have recently left their adopted nest ready, or are they ready, to make their 5,000 mile migration to Africa.

Then next spring they make the 5000 mile journey back where the females can lay up to twenty eggs in twenty different usurped nests.

Cuckoos arrive early often in April.

In fact April 14th is known as ‘Cuckoo Day’ the harbinger of spring the first day of St Tibertius.

Never seem to be amazed at Britain’s folklore and religious festivals.

They don’t stay long with the adults having left for Africa as early as July or August.

Fascinating birds, the youngsters we take in are not dissimilar to sparrowhawks.

Probably a ploy to protect them and their dastardly deeds.

For some reason they have zygodactyl feet wherein two toes point forward with the other two pointing backwards.

Notably the kingfisher also has zygodactyl feet which means when they are with is they do need many different perches.

As adults they are the only birds that eat the hairy caterpillars such as Woolly Bears.

This is fast becoming their downfall as insecticides are decimating the caterpillar population with the number of cuckoos dropping by 50% over the last twenty years.

This year’s young cuckoo is almost ready to leave Tiggys for pastures new in the Congo.

How do they do it?

Nobody knows.

Bon voyage.

 

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