Project Description

In December 2008 my attention was attracted by some “soft, almost raptor-like begging calls” emanating from the crown of a Burkea tree on the southern shoreline of Vaalkop Dam. A Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis, was in evidence, but half-hidden in the dappled shade was this juvenile African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis. Fork-tailed Drongos are the only host species of the African Cuckoo, and research has shown that as much as 27% of drongo nests may be parasitised by visiting African Cuckoos, who deposit a single, usually perfectly matched egg in the drongo nest and simultaneously remove one of the host’s eggs. You can read more about the fascinating natural phenomenon of brood parasitism here: Generally the best way time to find African Cuckoos is in spring (Sep-Nov), when their soft but carrying hooting call betrays their presence. This sound can be easily imitated by blowing into your cupped hands. I recently wrote a paper on distinguishing features between African and Common Cuckoos (paper can be accessed here), and this image proved to be very useful reference.