Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 5,960,000-10,800,000 calling or lekking males, which equates to 11,900,000-21,500,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c. 30% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 40,000,000-72,000,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. The population is therefore placed in the band 40,000,000-74,999,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The overall trend is suspected to be declining. The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme estimates the population Within Europe the population has decreased by <25% over the period 1980-2013 (EBCC 2015).


The species inhabits forests and woodlands, both coniferous and deciduous, second growth, open wooded areas, wooded steppe, scrub, heathland, meadows, reedbeds, lowlands and moorlands. In north-west Europe it breeds between May and June. It is a brood parasite; host species include many insectivorous songbirds such as flycatchers, chats, warblers, pipits, wagtails and buntings. Over 100 host species have been recorded. The species feeds on insects, spiders and snails and rarely on fruit. Individuals of the nominate race breeding from the British Isles and Scandinavia east to Russia winter in central and southern Africa. Individuals of the bangsi race that breed in Iberia spend the winter south of the equator from west Africa to Lake Tanganyika. Individuals of the nominate and bakeri races breeding in Asia winter in India, south-east Asia, the Philippines and Africa. Individuals of the subtelephonus race migrate through the Middle East and winter in Africa (Payne and Christie 2013).


Declines in northern Europe have been attributed to the intensification of agriculture, resulting in fewer insects and hosts. Climate change is also an important factor where short-distance migrating host species have advanced their arrival more than the cuckoos resulting in a mismatch of nesting times (Erritzøe et al. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is listed as 'red' on the U.K. National Red List (Eaton et al. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Traditional farming methods that protect and create habitats and food sources for host species should be promoted. Further research on the effects of climate change and monitoring of populations should be undertaken.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Cuculus canorus. Downloaded from on 11/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 11/12/2023.