Status: Widespread summer visitor to Ireland from April to August.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population is currently evaluated as secure.
Identification: Despite its obvious song, relatively infrequently seen. In flight, can be mistaken for a bird of prey such as Sparrowhawk, but has rapid wingbeats below the horizontal plane - ie. the wings are not raised above the body. Adult male Cuckoos are a uniform grey on the head, neck, back, wings and tail. The underparts are white with black barring. Adult females can appear in one of two forms. The so-called grey-morph resembles the adult male plumage, but has throat and breast barred black and white with yellowish wash. The rufous-morph has the grey replaced by rufous, with strong black barring on the wings, back and tail. Juvenile Cuckoos resemble the female rufous-morph, but are darker brown above.
Similar Species: Sparrowhawk
Call: The song is probably one of the most recognisable and well-known of all Irish bird species. The male gives a distinctive “wuck-oo”, which is occasionally doubled “wuck-uck-ooo”. The female has a distinctive bubbling “pupupupu”. The song period is late April to late June.
Diet: Mainly caterpillars and other insects.
Breeding: Widespread in Ireland, favouring open areas which hold their main Irish host species – Meadow Pipit. Has a remarkable breeding biology unlike any other Irish breeding species.
Wintering: Cuckoos winter in central and southern Africa.
Where to See: Occurs throughout Ireland though nowhere especially common. Good areas to see Cuckoo are the Burren and Connemara, which hold the highest density of breeding pairs.
Monitored by: Countryside Bird Survey.