Starling Feeds Cuckoo – Strange but True


Starling feeds Cuckoo

There are something in the order of 11 million hits when you simply Google the term ‘Cuckoo’. Admittedly a fair amount of those relate to human behavior – but that’s no longer surprising…

At Londolozi we are spoilt for Cuckoos as it is possible to find at least 9 different species throughout the summer months. You have to be experienced, lucky or both to find them all because most cuckoos are as good at hiding themselves as they are at sneaking their eggs into other birds nests. If you haven’t heard of brood parasitism – it’s worth reading about. I’m guessing though that for most of you the curious habits of the cuckoo are known. And they are curious habits aren’t they? Imagine for a second leaving your young to be reared and cared for by another person and having absolutely no hand in parenting? If you detected any sarcasm in that question it is because at various times through history it has been fashionable for humans to leave their young to their hired help. Victorian Cuckoos?

For me the magic about Cuckoos is not that they have discovered a loophole in natural biological processes and succeeded at it so remarkably, it’s that every cuckoo is born with that genetic encoding for brood parasitism and that they all execute those instructions perfectly. There are no manuals for wannabe parasites and there is no verbal handover from generation to generation. Cuckoos are simply bought into the world through an absurd evolutionary mechanism with a subtle set of instructions deeply embedded within their cranium as to how to continue the process.

That for me is the beauty of the Cuckoo and in a way it sheds light on the fact that much of what wild creatures do and achieve is pre-programmed and possibly unavoidable. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to what that suggests about human behavior and the next time someone suggests that somebody else has gone cuckoo, you might ponder for a second and think about what that really means.


Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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