The great spotted cuckoo is an insectivore, feeding mainly on large caterpillars which, remarkably, it will remove any hairs from before eating. It will also take other prey, including termites, moths and even small lizards (2).
As is typical of cuckoos, the great spotted cuckoo is a brood parasite. The female lays the eggs in the nests of another species, known as the ‘host’, and the young cuckoo is then raised by the host parents. Typical hosts include various species of crow and starling in Africa (3), with magpies being the principal host in Spain (2).
The female cuckoo adds one to six eggs to the host’s nest (3), which then hatch before the eggs of the host, giving the cuckoo chicks a head start. The hatchling cuckoo does not evict the other eggs or hatchlings from the nest, but competes with them for food, making begging calls similar to the host’s own chicks. The demanding cuckoo fledges after about 22 days, but is still fed by its foster parents for up to 59 days afterwards. The host receives no benefit from this relationship (2).