🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-My-Vrou)

A bird in the hand is a certainty, but a bird in the bush may sing.
Bret Harte

30th October 8.04 am and I've just heard the Piet-My-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo - Cuculus solitarius) for the first time this season! It's rather late, I normally hear them at the beginning of October, but it's as if they've waited for the first rains before being heard! (We had 20mm of rain last night and 15mm the night before, so the world around here in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa) is looking and smelling sparkling clean!) They're extremely shy and very hard to spot, but I managed to get a quick (not-so-good! so I couldn't post a photograph) shot with my camera before he disappeared back into the thick foliage. Had to use my bird book to complete all the colours.

I have held most bird species in my hands at least once, but with the Red-chested Cuckoo I have not had that pleasure.

In Southern Africa, all cuckoos are "migratory" (the Klaas's and Emerald Cuckoos appear to be resident in the warmer east), arriving from Central or Eastern Africa at the start of the rainy season in late September and October. Upon arrival, the males establish territories and advertise their presence to females (and birdwatchers!) by calling incessantly, sometimes even after dark.

The Red-chested Cuckoo is mainly found in the eastern half of southern Africa, and is quite common in protected areas, living in a wide range of habitats. It feeds mostly on invertebrates, particularly hairy caterpillars but also grasshoppers and beetles, amongst others. It mostly parasitizes members of Muscicapidae (robins, thrushes, flycatchers, etc.), rushing into their nests, and removing the host's eggs before laying one of its own, all in just 5 seconds! Once the chick is 2 days old, it evicts the host's eggs and nestlings. It stays in the nest for 17-21 days, and is dependent on its host parents for 20-25 days more, before becoming fully independent. (Info from Wikipedia)

This Cuckoo occurs throughout Africa south of the Sahara, but avoids arid regions. In southern Africa it is common in eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and eastern and southern South Africa. It generally prefers Afromontane forest, closed woodland, Miombo woodland, open savanna thickets, stands of trees in human settlements, mature gardens and parks.

Piet-my-vrou [Afrikaans]; Uphezukomkhono [Xhosa]; uPhezukomkhono [Zulu]; Mukuku (generic term for cuckoos and coucals) [Kwangali]; Tlo-nke-tsoho [South Sotho]; Phezukwemkhono [Swazi]; Ngwafalantala [Tsonga]; Heremietkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucou solitaire [French]; Einsiedlerkuckuck [German]; Cuco-de-peito-vermelho [Portuguese]
Info from "Biodiversity"



  1. Beautifully painted, Maree, even though he is so elusive. And I enjoy your post with all the information. Thank you!

  2. I'm so pleased you popped in again Studio, always enjoy your comments! Glad you like this, thanks a lot!

  3. HEy, I'm Claire (Living in Pretoria)

    I found a baby red chested cuckoo in our garden, unable to fly. To keep it away from the dogs, We kept it in a enclosed area in our garden, just in case the mother will come back. The whole day there was no sign of any bird close to it, and the whole neighborhood is filled with cats and dogs. What can I feed it for now, since there is no bird sanctury close by?

    1. Hi Claire, thanks for stopping by at my blog! It's always such a pity when baby birds fall out of their nests, isn't it? If your enclosed area is far away from the original nest, the parents (which are host birds and not the Red-Chested Cuckoo) will not look far or find it there. If you do decide to take it in, the Cuckoos are insect eaters so you can therefore either run around catching insects (and what a job that is! he he!) or you could feed it small bits of minced meat. Encourage it to open its mouth by touching it on the side of the mouth and quickly slipping in the tiny bits of mince. Or else you could open its mouth and put the mince as far back as possible. An offering of water in a teaspoon would also be OK. Also be sure to keep it snug and warm by wrapping a hot water bottle in a towel. Place it in a basket or a box, ensuring that it is not too hot. Feed every hour or when it asks.

      Hope you have success with this little one Claire!

    2. Thank you so much for your help. Our neigborhood is filled with thrushes, so I was hoping those in our garden will be the "host-parent. But there was no success in that =) But thank you for the advice, it helps

    3. Yes, the Thrushes are popular hosts and very good parents. Glad I could be of some help Claire, and please let me know what happens to the little chap. Enjoy your day!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...