Shining Cuckoo

Chrysococcyx lucidus

Physical Description

The Shining Cuckoo is a small bird with a slender body and a curved beak. It has a predominantly olive-green plumage with a metallic green or bronze iridescence on its upperparts. The underparts are pale with dark barring. They have a long tail, which is often held upright in flight. Juveniles have a more muted colouration and lack the metallic sheen.

Habitat and Range

The Shining Cuckoo is a migratory bird that breeds in New Zealand during the summer. They are widespread across the country, inhabiting various forested habitats, including native forests, regenerating forests, and shrublands. During the non-breeding season, they migrate to the Pacific Islands, such as Fiji and Samoa.

Feeding Habits

Shining Cuckoos are primarily insectivorous birds. They feed on various insects, including caterpillars, beetles, spiders, and moths. They have a unique adaptation known as brood parasitism, where the female lays eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly grey warblers. The host birds then raise the cuckoo chicks.

Breeding and Nesting

Shining Cuckoos do not build their nests as brood parasites. Instead, the female selects the nests of host birds, such as grey warblers, where she lays a single egg. The cuckoo chick hatches and monopolises the attention and resources of the host parents, often out-competing the host's offspring.

Conservation Status

The Shining Cuckoo is not currently classified as a threatened species. However, as a migratory bird, it faces challenges during its long-distance journeys, including habitat loss and climate change. Conservation efforts focus on protecting and restoring their breeding and wintering habitats and raising awareness about their ecological importance.

Trees and Plant Preferences

Shining Cuckoos are not explicitly associated with particular tree species, as they rely on host birds to provide suitable nesting sites. However, they are often found in forested habitats with a diverse range of native trees and shrubs. Their presence may indicate the presence of suitable host species, such as grey warblers, that build cup-shaped nests in various tree species.

Interesting Facts

  • The Shining Cuckoo is known for its distinctive call, a repeated high-pitched whistle that sounds like "pee-oo, pee-oo, pee-oo."
  • They can find their way back to their breeding grounds in New Zealand from their wintering grounds in the Pacific Islands.
  • Shining Cuckoos are part of the more prominent family of cuckoos, known for their brood-parasitic behaviour.
  • The presence of Shining Cuckoos in an area can have ecological benefits, as they help control insect populations through their feeding habits.
  • Māori tradition holds that the arrival of the Shining Cuckoo in New Zealand signifies the start of the warmer seasons.