Clamator glandarius (Great spotted cuckoo) 

Gevlekte koekoek [Afrikaans]; Haya (name also applied to Green wood-hoopoe - check) [Shona]; Kuifkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucou geai [French]; Häherkuckuck [German]; Cuco-rabilongo [Portuguese]

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Clamator glandarius (Great spotted cuckoo)   

Great spotted cuckoo. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

 

The Great-spotted cuckoo is fairly common across its scattered range, living in savannas and grasslands. It feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, rarely eating reptiles. It only parasitizes crows and starlings, waiting until the host is not present, before laying 1-4 eggs into its nest. It lays up to 6 eggs in one day, and up to 23 in the whole season. Unlike some cuckoos, the chicks do not always kill their "siblings", but will sometimes peck and damage them. It stays in the nest for 22-26 days, the period after this has not been studied. Interestingly, an adult cuckoo was once recorded feeding a fledgling.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in the Middle east, Spain, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa, excluding equatorial lowland forest. In southern Africa it is fairly common in northern and central Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and northern South Africa, within an isolated population in the Eastern Cape. It generally prefers arid, open savanna, particularly with Acacia trees, and grassland with scattered trees and bushes.

Distribution of Great-spotted cuckoo in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Call

 
   

Recorded by Clem Hagner, [© Transvaal Museum]

 

Food 

Feeds mainly on invertebrates - especially hairy caterpillars but also grasshoppers, beetles and other insects. It typically forages by sitting in the tree canopy, scanning the surrounding foliage and ground for prey. Once prey is located, it swoops into foliage or on to the ground and grabs its prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in other birds nests. The host, thinking that the egg is its own, incubates the egg and cares for the chick. The following bird species have been parasitized by the Great-spotted cuckoo:
  • Egg-laying season is from December-March in Namibia and Botswana, August-January in Zimbabwe, October-January in the Kruger National Park and from October-February in the Western and Eastern Cape.
  • The female waits until the potential host has left the nest, then inspects it to see if it is suitable. If it is, she lays 1-4, usually two eggs, laying up to six eggs per day and up to 23 in one breeding season.
  • Unlike some cuckoos, the chicks do not always kill their "siblings", but will sometimes peck and damage them. They leave the nest after 22-26 days, after which they might be fed at least partly by their cuckoo parents (based on one observation).

Threats

Not threatened, in fact it is widespread and fairly common.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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