Adult male cuckoo in flight

Common cuckoo

Common cuckoos are solitary birds more often heard than seen. The familiar and unforgettable 'cuck-oo cuck-oo' call heralds the beginning of spring when they return to Europe from wintering in sub-Saharan Africa and south east Asia. As one of the most infamous brood parasites, cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other birds with precision timing. Once hatched, the chick ejects the legitimate occupants and then gets fed by its new and unsuspecting foster parents - true masters of deception.

Did you know?
Cuckoos shake the toxins out of hairy caterpillars before eating them.

All you need to know about British birds.

Scientific name: Cuculus canorus

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Eurasian cuckoo,
  • European cuckoo

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Map showing the distribution of the Common cuckoo taxa

Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

The Common cuckoo can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Asia, China, Europe, Indian subcontinent, Mediterranean, Russia, United Kingdom, Wales, Ynys-hir nature reserve. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Common cuckoo distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Least Concern

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Year assessed: 2009

Classified by: IUCN 3.1


The common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, Cuculiformes, which includes the roadrunners, the anis and the coucals.

This species is a widespread summer migrant to Europe and Asia, and winters in Africa. It is a brood parasite, which means it lays eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly of dunnocks, meadow pipits, and reed warblers. Although its eggs are larger than those of its hosts, the eggs in each type of host nest resemble the host's eggs. The adult too is a mimic, in its case of the sparrowhawk; since that species is a predator, the mimicry gives the female time to lay her eggs without being seen to do so.

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  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Birds
  5. Cuculiformes
  6. Cuculidae
  7. Cuculus
  8. Common cuckoo