Photo courtesy Jim and Nancy Dewitt
The crown, which is raised like a crest, is chestnut streaked with black. There is a prominent white supercilliary streak and the eyes are reddish brown, along with chestnut cheeks. The upperparts are grayish brown streaked with black and buff. On the wing, the area of the primary coverts is black. The underparts are white with the throat and chest tinged buff. It has a long graduated tail that is gray below and tipped with white. The upper tail coverts are approximately half the length of the tail and are streaked black and buff. It has zygodactylous feet, meaning they have two toes (digits 1 and 4) pointing backwards and two toes (digits 2 and 2) pointing forwards. Both sexes are alike and are approximately 11 inches (28cm) and 50 grams. The immature are spotted with rufous on the back and wings.
This Trinidad resident is a solitary bird that favors the edges of mangrove swampsand areas with scattered trees that are overgrown with bushes. Although solitary it ocasionally can be seen in small groups. For the majority of the time it remains hidden on the ground among the bushes. It runs rapidly on the ground searching for its prey that is largely insects comprising grasshoppers, dragonflies, caterpillars, cockroaches and other bugs.
This bird is an obligate brood parasite, meaning the females build no nest of their own and they can only reproduce by laying their eggs in the nest of other birds, particularly spinetails, wrens and marsh-tyrants, which build dome shaped nests. The cuckoo has evolved egg mimicry, so that the eggs it lays look like the eggs of its host. The eggs start developing while still inside the female bird which gives them a head start and allows them to hatch before any of the host female's natural eggs. The young cuckoo is then in a position to evict these young from the nest as they hatch, ensuring that it is the only one fed by the hard working parents.
Family - Cuckoos
Other Name - Brown Cuckoo
Latin Name - Tapera naevia
Photograph courtesy Richard Shirley
A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London
Birds of the West Indies. 5th edition, James Bond. 1985, Collins, London
Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London
The Earthlife Web at http://www.earthlife.net/birds/cuculiformes.html
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