Overview The oystercatcher is a large, stocky, black and white wading bird. It has a long, orange-red bill and reddish-pink legs. In flight, it shows a wide white wing-stripe, a black tail, and a white rump that extends as a 'V' between the wings. Because it eats cockles, the population is vulnerable if cockle beds are overexploited. Breeds on almost all UK coasts; over the last 50 years, more birds have started breeding inland. Most UK birds spend the winter on the coast; where they are joined on the east coast by birds from Norway.
On Edernish they are always visible and have several breeding locations.
Breeding All species of oystercatcher are generally monogamous, although there are reports of polygamy in the Eurasian Oystercatcher. They are territorial during the breeding season (with a few species defending territories year round). There is strong mate and site fidelity in the species that have been studied, with one record of a pair defending the same site for 20 years. A single nesting attempt is made per breeding season, which is timed over the summer months. The nests of oystercatchers are simple affairs, scrapes in the ground which may be lined, and placed in a spot with good visibility. The eggs of oystercatchers are spotted and cryptic. Between one and four eggs are laid, with three being typical in the Northern Hemisphere and two in the south. Incubation is shared but not proportionally, females tend to take more incubation and males engage in more territory defence. Incubation varies by species, lasting between 24–39 days.
Feeding Mussels and cockles on the coast; mainly worms inland.
Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Overview The cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they are not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks. Sexes are similar and the young are brown. They are summer visitors and well-known brood parasites, the females laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers. Their recent population decline makes this a Red List species.
Area Two species of cuckoos regularly visit Europe, only one in the Ireland; there are many other species worldwide, taking their name from the familiar European one which calls ‘cuckoo’ in spring. Most are migrants: our cuckoos spend the winter in Africa. They are parasitic, laying their eggs in the nests of other species, which rear the young cuckoos in place of their own offspring.
Breeding The cuckoos are an extremely diverse group of birds with regards to breeding systems. The majority of species are monogamous, but there are exceptions. The anis and the Guira Cuckoo lay their eggs in communal nests, although this behaviour is not completely cooperative; a female may remove others' eggs when laying hers. Polyandry has been confirmed in the African Black Coucal and is suspected to occur in the other coucals, perhaps explaining the reversed sexual dimorphism in the group. The majority of cuckoo species, including malkohas, couas, coucals, and roadrunners and most other American cuckoos, build their own nests, although a large minority engage in brood parasitism. Most of these species nest in trees or bushes, but the coucals lay their eggs in nests on the ground or in low shrubs. Though on some occasions non-parasitic cuckoos parasitize other species, the parent still helps feed the chick.
Non-parasitic cuckoos, like most other non-passerines, lay white eggs, but many of the parasitic species lay coloured eggs to match those of their passerine hosts.
The young of all species are altricial. Non-parasitic cuckoos leave the nest before they can fly, and some New World species have the shortest incubation periods among birds.
Feeding Most cuckoos are insectivorous; and in particular are specialised in eating larger insects and caterpillars, including noxious hairy types avoided by other birds. They are unusual amongst birds in processing their prey prior to swallowing, rubbing it back and forth on hard objects such as branches and then crushing it with special bony plates in the back of the mouth. They will also take a wide range of other insects and animal prey. The lizard-cuckoos of the Caribbean have, in the relative absence of birds of prey, specialised in taking lizards. Larger, ground types such as coucals and roadrunners also feed variously on snakes, lizards, small rodents, and other birds, which they bludgeon with their strong bills. Ground species may employ different techniques to catch prey. A study of two coua species in Madagascar found that the Coquerel's Coua obtained prey by walking and gleaning on the forest floor, whereas the Red-capped Coua ran and pounced on prey. Both species also showed seasonal flexibility in prey and foraging techniques. The parasitic cuckoos are generally not recorded as participating in mixed-species feeding flocks, although some studies in eastern Australia found several species would participate in the non-breeding season, but were mobbed and unable to do so in the breeding season. Ground-cuckoos of the genus Neomorphus are sometimes seen feeding in association with army ant swarms, although they are not obligate ant-followers as are some antbirds. The anis are ground feeders that follow cattle and other large mammals when foraging; in a similar fashion to Cattle Egrets they snatch prey flushed by the cattle and enjoy higher foraging success rates in this way.
Several koels, couas and the Channel-billed Cuckoo feed mainly on fruit, but they are not exclusively frugivores. The parasitic koels and Channel-billed Cuckoo in particular consume mainly fruit when raised by frugivore hosts such as the Australasian Figbird and Pied Currawong. Other species will occasionally take fruit as well. Couas consume fruit in the dry season when prey is harder to find.
They are very distinctive with black and white iridescent plumage, a long tail and relatively short wings. 18 inches (45 cm) including tail.
Lebensraum Woodland, moorland, parks and gardens
Eggs 4 - 7 pale green eggs speckled with brown laid April to May, incubation 21 days. During incubation the birds are very silent.
Nahrung Insects, fruit, seeds, eggs of other birds, small animals
General Magpies are not very likeable birds, renowned as scavengers they steal eggs and young from other birds' nests.