Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Red-chested Cuckoo Juvenile

Before I post about the birds we saw on Sunday, I'd like to share an amazing sighting we had on Monday evening. After work, Grant and I drove to the top dam. As we rode slowly past the reservoir tank, he saw a d'Arnaud's Barbet on a branch overhanging the road. We stopped and as we watched this bird, I noticed a dark bird sitting very still on a branch a way into the thicket. As I focussed on the bird, I saw it had dark head and throat and a barred white belly. Grant took a closer look with the binoculars and said he thought it was a cuckoo. While I photographed it, we heard it calling, a shrill "prrr-prrr" sound.   We both looked at each other and said: a cuckoo chick!  

The black bird, with black and white barred front, calling

Still watching the bird on my camera screen,  I saw a flash of red on the branch above it. A Robin-chat had arrived ! The cuckoo was a Juvenile Red-chested Cuckoo being raised by a Robin-chat.

A White-browed Robin-chat, surrogate parent to the Red-chested Cuckoo juvenile.

The Red-chested Cuckoo is usually solitary, highly vocal and lives in forests and plantations. It eats insects. We have many Red-chested Cuckoos in the camp and in the bush all over the mine.
The Red-chested Cuckoo takes on more than one mate (it is bigamous). It's also a brood parasite which means it uses the nest of another - normally much smaller - bird. The surrogate family then raises the chick. The Red-chested cuckoo lays eggs which are brown in colour and number between 20 eggs per season, one at a time,  in different nests.
 Note the incongruity in the sizes of the birds! The White-browed Robin-chat is 18cm while an adult Red-chested Cuckoo measures 31cm. The cuckoo chick, above, is probably about 22cm

Note: Even though my bird books say that the Red-chested Cuckoo parasitizes the Cape Robin-chat, I have never seen the latter in Kerio Valley.

Thanks to all who commented on my Kenyan Cats post yesterday.


  1. What an interesting adoption story, Jo. I love the difference in size between the two birds. What a great photo op!
    -- K

  2. Wow--you got a real 'find' when you found the Cuckoo... I have never seen one.... All I can say is WOW... Great pictures, Jo.

  3. That poor step-parent is going to be kept very busy feeding that big Cuckoo chick.

  4. Just love your blog on the cuckoo - remember I told you about the Magpie's making a nest? Well, the two babies are now flying around and Pete and I have been watching them avidly - such a beautiful sight. They fly from branch to branch albeit very wobbly still!

  5. What a remarkable thing! Thanks for the lesson about this surrogate mother in nature. Wonderful story and pictures!!!


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo