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cuckoo chick query

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virtualheb
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cuckoo chick query

Post by virtualheb » 18 Jun 2012, 11:35

Yesterday, just on the moor at the rear of our garden, we watched what I think is strange behaviour, that is if we have identified the bird correctly, and we are reasonably sure that it was actually a young cuckoo chick, it was near our feeders - but the parent wasnt seeming to be anywhere around ( we do know that the cuckoo seemed to be residing in conifers nearby, as we hear it every morning ) - but the odd thing was that the cuckoo was being fed by two sparrows!

Is this something that often happens! - I was under the impression, certainly with adult cuckoos - that the cuckoos would kill the sparrows maybe ?

Any thoughts, anyone?

Chris
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Crex Crex
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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by Crex Crex » 18 Jun 2012, 18:22

Regarding foster parents for Cuckoo. I suspect that the Cuckoo on the Islands will mostly choose Meadow Pipit's nests to lay their eggs in, but I see no obvious reason why, on this occasion, they did not choose a Sparrows nest, however, the House Sparrow's nest is usually difficult to access for bigger birds,quite often under the eaves of houses, but not always. I have a pet Herring Gull that was feeding at the front of my house when it was approached by an immature brown gull. The brown gull was 'billing' and calling. The mature Gull regurgitated food for the immature intruder. There was no proof that it was her own chick. The immatures 'billing' and calling could have activated its mothering instinct.

Ashley_Jackson
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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by Ashley_Jackson » 18 Jun 2012, 19:07

Hi Chris,

I agree with Crex Crex, House Sparrow would seem like a very difficult nest for a Cuckoo to lay an egg in, especially given the abundance of Meadow Pipit nests on the islands (although I've a friend who has seen a young Cuckoo bursting out of a Wrens nest before - the mind boggles how that egg got laid!). When you say "sparrows" do you mean Dunnock (Hedge Sparrow as I was brought up to call them) ? - I think Cuckoo egg laying in Dunnock nests is quite well documented, in which case you'd expect to see the Cuckoo chick being fed by the Dunnock foster parents.

Cheers

Ashley

virtualheb
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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by virtualheb » 19 Jun 2012, 09:22

Hi all

Thanks for your info - well being a novice, I looked at sparrow pics - and yes I think the birds feeding it wer dunnocks - hedge sparrows - apologies for not being specific - I had never looked ath the different sparrows really, so an education for me to see that there are 3 - house sparrow - tree sparrow and dunock (hedge sparrow)

Cheers all - I will wath with interest

Chris
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Ashley_Jackson
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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by Ashley_Jackson » 19 Jun 2012, 13:02

It's nice to have sparrows at the end of the garden, never mind a young Cuckoo!... all I seem to get in my garden (in suburbia) are Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove and Magpie!!

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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by BrianR » 19 Jun 2012, 15:15

Chris, a very early date for a juvenile Cuckoo if that's what it was. I have only seen young being fed by Meadow Pipits here. BWP gives over 100 different host species recorded in Europe with the commonest in north-west Europe being Meadow Pipit, Dunnock and Reed Warbler. I know Dunnock used to be called Hedge Sparrow but it is in a completly different family (Accentors). At several places on North Uist I have come across House Sparrow nests in trees. These are quite bulky affairs and this type of construction perhaps not surprising as sparrows are closely related to the weavers which are found mainly in Africa.

Returning to the Cuckoo they have suffered a massive decline in recent years in southern Britain but the Scottish population is doing OK. Stephen Moss writing recently about Cuckoos and seeing one in flight which reminded him of a small bird of prey such as a male Sparrowhawk. He went on to say that scientists believe that they evolved the ability to resemble a low-flying raptor in order to scare its host species off their nest, allowing the female Cuckoo to lay her egg unseen.

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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by Crex Crex » 19 Jun 2012, 16:11

Brian
House Sparrows nesting in trees, now that is very interesting indeed.

Ashley_Jackson
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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by Ashley_Jackson » 19 Jun 2012, 16:53

I've heard of tree nesting House Sparrows before in various parts of England, I've never been lucky enough to see one though. Brian, Were your Uist nests hidden in thick bushy trees or were they quite open ?.... I've found Spanish Sparrow and Desert Sparrow nests in trees before (obviously not in the UK) and they were easily visible nests to find.

(sorry to go a bit off topic!)

virtualheb
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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by virtualheb » 19 Jun 2012, 17:02

Hi all

Intersting info - from you all - I have to say that at first sight - when we both saw the cuckoo - then it was alone - and in flight - at first we had thought it maybe a bird of prey, until closer looks. As for the actual nest - the conifers are very tall - and I cant actually see a nest, and wouldnt go too close anyway - just heard the cuckoo, and I really arent to sure as to the sparrows we were looking at - for the type - as they only fed the chick - and then flew off - all in a matter of seconds - I will watch for them again

By the way, all this sparrow info - is interesting too!

Chris
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Re: cuckoo chick query

Post by FrankS » 19 Jun 2012, 21:07

Ashley_Jackson wrote:I've heard of tree nesting House Sparrows before in various parts of England, I've never been lucky enough to see one though. Brian, Were your Uist nests hidden in thick bushy trees or were they quite open ?.... I've found Spanish Sparrow and Desert Sparrow nests in trees before (obviously not in the UK) and they were easily visible nests to find.

(sorry to go a bit off topic!)
Before moving to Lewis i used to live in a village where house sparrows regularly built their nests in a large unmanaged hawthorn hedge bordering a farmers field. More visable in winter obviously, when the hedge lost it leaves, but not so much so in spring/summer when the birds were breeding. It didn't matter if the nests were visable any way because nothing could get to them as they were protected by a thicket of sharp thorns. The nests were unkempt domed affairs, loosly constructed with sticks and long strands of dried grass, then lined inside in the more usual fashion with hair and feathers. The birds also used the nests to roost in outwith the breeding season.
I have also come across a small colony of house sparrows with nests built in mature ivy which was growing on sandstone pillars at the entrance to a country park.

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