The red chested cuckoo currently contributes to the melody heard on gondwana game reserve. The distintive trisyllabic “wip-wip-weeu” call can be endlessly repeated for hours, by day and night. It’s Afrikaans name, Piet-my-vrou, is an apt rendition of this call. There are many interesting facts about this cuckoo. It generally lives in forests, closed woodlands, open savanna thickets, stands on trees in human settlements, parks and very often in the tree next to your bedroom window. The cuckoo’s intimidating appearance chases it’s weaker flying hosts from their nests and enables the bird to lay it’s egg. This bird is indeed a parasitic breeder, laying a single egg in the nest of other birds. It lays its egg in less than five seconds, the egg incubates quicker than those of the host and consequently hatches earlier so the hatchling is able to kick the other eggs out of the nest and become the sole occupant which the host then has to raise as its own. Preferred hosts include robin-chat, thrushes and flycatchers. Females have been recorded to lay up to 20 eggs in one season. We are now in the middle of the Piet-my-vrou’s breeding season so we will be hearing it’s voice for a while longer. By the end of February the bird will have returned to central Africa and we can all return to our normal sleeping patterns.
By Melanie Delamare