Feeding Cuckoos

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Flanders Moss NNR

Flanders Moss is one of the best places to hear cuckoos in the area. It used to be that you could hear cuckoos across the countryside but these days if you want to be sure of hearing one you usually have to go to specific habitat and Flanders is just one of those places.

Cuckoos have declined across the UK but these declines hide varying fortunes across the country. In England cuckoos have dropped by 70% in the last 20 years but in Scotland the cuckoo population is increasing, though mostly in the Highlands and other wild landscapes.

So what is the reason behind these dramatic changes? Well it is a mixture of loss of habitat and loss of food. Intensive farming is removing the rough land that cuckoos used to live on and now they moving to wilder landscapes like bogs, heaths and uplands. Cuckoos feed mostly on large hairy caterpillars that that are toxic to other birds like the caterpillar of the drinker moth or the garden tiger moth. But these moths species have declined 4 times faster than other moth populations and this is also down to increased pesticide use and loss of habitat through intensive farming.

garden tiger

Garden tiger moth

So it seems that agricultural change has played a part in people hearing less cuckoos. And with Flanders surrounded by highly productive farmland it makes the moss with its mass of moths a really important place for cuckoos. In fact research where electronic loggers were put on young cuckoos found that once the youngsters had fledged from their hosts nests they moved to Flanders to fill up on caterpillars before making the long and hazardous journey to spend the winter in Africa.

So next time you are down on the boardwalk and see one of the hairy caterpillars marching across the boardwalk, think of it as cuckoo food and step around it.

Read more into the decline of cuckoo here

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Drinker moth caterpillar on the boardwalk

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1 Response to Feeding Cuckoos

  1. Pingback: #WeWantNature ? | 2 bogs, a swamp and some islands

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