This is Colin. He is probably the UK’s (and perhaps the world’s) most famous Cuckoo. He lives on Thursely Common, in Surrey. But only some of the time
Cuckoos like to travel. With enviable commonsense, Cuckoos spend the British winter far from our shores, in Central Africa, where they pass the time eating. Interestingly, one thing they don’t do in Africa, is say “Cuckoo”. The call so familiar to us as a harbinger of Spring is a mating call, and is only ever made here in the UK where the birds breed. Colin is a bird who has become more used to humans than most. He is still a completely wild Cuckoo, and every autumn he sets off back down to Africa. But for the last few years he has grown to tolerate photographers who now gather in large numbers in a large green field in Thursley common, an otherwise fairly bleak expanse of rather boggy heather moorland. His affection may have something to do wit the ready supply of mealworms that are now left out for him. Sadly, the many photographers present break the rules on bait feeding (don’t do it regularly, don’t over-feed, don’t make the wildlife dependent on it), so Colin is able to spend less time foraging for food than other Cuckoos and more time concentrating on the one thing that really motivates him: sex. “Cuckoo” is a mating call, designed to drive the ladies into a frenzy, and as I’m sure you will agree, he’s a rather handsome chap. So much so that I can almost forgive the fact that Colin, like every cuckoo, started his life deceiving his unwitting foster parents that this enormous chick in their nest was actually one of theirs. Female cuckoos can actually change the colour and patterning of their eggs to suit the nest of the host species that they are using. Identity theft? Cuckoos thought of it first, and they’ve been doing it longer and better than humans ever could.