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January 2016 Issue
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Shining Cuckoo

The shining cuckoo spends summer in New Zealand

The shining cuckoo (also known as bronze cuckoo) is a migratory bird that spends the New Zealand winters in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, returning here only to breed over the summer months. This species is a ‘brood parasite’ in that they lay their eggs (in November) singly, in nests of grey warblers. The young cuckoos are hatched and raised by the warblers and are dependent on them until several weeks after fledging. Either a very smart bird or a rather devious one, depending on which way you look at it.

The distinct, recognisable feature of the cuckoo is its iridescent dark green back and wings. It also has lovely dark green horizontal bands on a white chest. The first indication that one is nearby is usually a loud, short, upwardly-slurred whistle repeated several times and ending with a much longer downwardly-slurred whistle. However, they can be very difficult to track to source, with the bird regularly remaining concealed in dense foliage high in the tree tops until put to flight.

They are typically found in or near bush and scrub and in farmed and urban areas – wherever the grey warbler lives. These birds are common over the summer months throughout mainland New Zealand and prefer a predominantly invertebrate diet. Like most cuckoo species, shining cuckoos can eat toxic insects like hairy caterpillars and ladybirds that are avoided by many other birds.

– Matt Winter is a Marlborough-based nature photographer