Cuculus canorus


About the size of a collared dove, cuckoos are a scarce summer visitor to most of Britain, arriving in April - their familiar 'cuck-oo' call heralds the start of spring. The adults leave for Africa by June or July, almost as soon as they have laid their eggs, while the young birds follow them in the autumn. Adults are 'brood-parasites' famous for laying their eggs in other birds' nests and fooling them into raising their young for them. Dunnocks, meadow pipits and reed warblers are common victims of this 'cuckolding' behaviour.

How to identify

Cuckoos are sometimes mistaken for sparrowhawks due to their markings: normally blue-grey but sometimes reddish-brown, backs and heads with striped dark grey and white undersides. They have long tails and pointed wings and a hawk-like shape in flight.

Where to find it

A widespread summer visitor.


When to find it

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July

How can people help

The cuckoo has suffered serious declines in recent decades due to changing agricultural practices and habitat loss. The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices. We are working towards a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Cuculus canorus
Woodpeckers, cuckoo and kingfisher
Length: 32-34cm Wingspan: 58cm Weight: 110-130g
Conservation status
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.