April 2017

Tom Cuffe

Tom Cuffe

Tom Cuffe from BirdWath Ireland’s Galway branch writes abut our species of the month for April.

Over the years I have heard many Cuckoos calling and very rarely get the pleasure to see them. They regularly call from the tree tops and sit just deep enough in the trees so you can’t see them. The best chance to get a glimpse is when they fly between their various calling zones.

My best view ever was on a school visit to Inis Meáin with the Heritage in Schools Scheme. The lack of trees on the island meant the Cuckoos on the island call from an alternative high vantage point which is telephone or electrical supply poles and cables. I had just finished my daylong session with the school and I was waiting outside for my lift to the island airport. While waiting and enjoy the stillness and peacefulness of the island I heard that unmistakable Cuckoo call. Wow! four Cuckoos landed on the wires and poles just outside the school. I stood shell shocked for a few seconds at the beautiful sight in front of me. Then realisation – I would never get a better chance to see such a sight again. Pure panic set in to get my camera out of the bag. This was a photographic opportunity not to miss. The photograph above was the result. Pure magic.

During my visit to schools, inevitably the Cuckoo is mentioned with an almost derogatory manner as the children inevitably tell me the Cuckoo steals other birds nest. I have to clarify that the Cuckoo does not steal anything and in fact it leaves something behind, the egg. The parent bird has no more involvement in the process and it is in fact the young Cuckoo that is responsible for the goings on after the parents are long gone.

As the Cuckoo looks very much like a bird of prey, quiet a few other birds can be seen on a regular basis mobbing the Cuckoo in a futile attempt to encourage it out of their territory.

One of the best nature programs I have ever watched was about the Cuckoo narrated by the one and only David Attenborough.  Cuckoo you tube

If you want to keep track of the Cuckoo on their journey to Africa – Cuckoo tracker

Some Facts

Length: 33 cm Wingspan: 58 cm Weight: M: 130 g F: 110 g

World Distribution: BREEDS: Europe, Asia, Africa, WINTERS: south to s Africa, s Asia

Habitat: Open woodland,

Diet: Insects, especially large, hairy caterpillars avoided by other birds and beetles

Females lay their eggs in the nest of the species which raised them. Dunnock, Reed Warbler and Meadow Pipit are current favoured ‘hosts’. A single female may visit up to 50 nests each year.

Egg Size: 22 x 17 mm Egg Weight: 3.2 g

Number of Nests Record: 26

Clutch Size: 1 – 25 eggs

Incubation: 11-13 days by the host

Fledging: 17 – 21 days

About the Author

Tom is an avid bird watcher and photographer and his blog features beautiful photographs of the birds of County Galway.

Tom loves to communicate his passion to the childrenthrough his visits to schools though the Heritage in Schools programme . During Tom’s visits, the children will be given a slide show of Irish birds and birds of the world, he will also show the children step by step how to draw a bird. Weather permitting a field trip around the school, with 30 binoculars; everyone will get to experience the bird life around their school up close. Tom can also teach the children how to make birds and other winged creatures through the wonderful art form of Origami.

In Galway City, Tom Cuffe runs monthly outings from September to May at Nimmo’s Pier (across the water from the Spanish Arch) every first Saturday of the month from 10.30am till approximately 12 noon. These outings are free to all, very suitable for children and older beginners and excellent to get introduced to bird watching and fellow bird watchers. Some other members also give talks or guide walks at the invitation of schools and community groups throughout the county.

Bird Watch Galway Facebook page

Tom can be contacted

This page was added on 24/04/2017.

Comments about this page

  • Fascinating thank you. Our cuckoo back in Clynagh, first heard Easter Sunday lovely sound. Saw one up close last year sat on telephone wire. Beautiful

    By Carol (25/04/2017)

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