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Cuckoos probably had captured human mind with their singing talent before humans discovered their brood parasitism. Their names in many languages are based on their songs.

In the ears of English speaking people, cuckoo song was heard as "cuckoo cuckoo," where in the ears of other language speaking people, the songs sounded like following: Cuco (es) kukułka (pl) Kuckuck (de) 뻐꾸기[ppoekkugi] (ko), カッコウ[Kakkō] (ja) 郭公[Guōgōng] (zh).

Their scientific names also deliver the fact that cuckoos are talented singers. In case of common cuckoo's taxonomic name [Cuculus canorus], Cuculus was originated from the sound of the cuckoos and canorus (=musical, tuneful) was originated from Latin 'cano', meaning 'to sing.'

However, its brood parasitism is so unique, I cannot finish this post without mentioning it. It must be a disturbing invasion to the host birds (only if they recognize) but a resourceful strategy to themselves.

Humans already recognized cuckoos amoral (from human's perspective) behaviour long-time ago, since Aristotle's time.

Shakespeare also mentioned cuckoo's naughty breeding style in his several plays.

In King Lear, the Fool advises the King by saying

"For you know, nuncle, The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long That it's had its head bit off by its young. (King Lear, I, 4, 203-205)"

Humans created a word "cuckold" to refer a man whose spouse is unfaithful based on an observation that female cuckoo lays eggs on other bird's nest. The meaning of cuckold was originated solely from human's own interpretation of the cuckoo's breeding behavior, and the interpretation was not correct.

Listening to one folk song about cuckoos, I'd like to add my own theory, a totally humanized rendition.

[Cuckoos are regarded as a sacred being in the avian world and all other birds actually long for raising a cuckoo chick at least once in a lifetime. If they accomplish the sacred mission with a successful outcome, they may expect a successful breeding of their own in the next season. So a cuckoo's egg(s) can be considered as a blessing to the host bird!]

"The cuckoo's a pretty bird, she warbles as she flies.

She brings us good tidings, tells us no lies.

She sucks the little birds' eggs to keep her voice clear,

And when she sings “cuckoo!” the summer it draws near." ....

Enjoy Jesse Ferguson (The Bard of Cornwall), a Canadian folk musician's performance!


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