Where Do Cuckoo Birds Live in Real Life? Get Facts Here!


Written by

Clinton Atkins



George Dukes

where do cuckoo birds live

Cuckoos are medium-sized birds that range from half a foot to three feet long. They also come in various colors, from bright blues and greens to duller browns and greys.

Where do cuckoo birds live? Pretty much everywhere! One can find these cosmopolitan birds on all continents except Antarctica.

What kind of habitats do these birds prefer, and how did they become so widespread? Read on to learn more!

What Are Cuckoo Birds?


When people think of cuckoo birds, they typically only imagine the common cuckoo, also known as the European cuckoo. This is the bird that makes the distinct cuckoo bird sound “cuckoo.”

However, only the male cuckoo bird makes that particular call. Also, there are over 140 species in the cuckoo family, all producing different sounds!

Cuckoos are most known for being a brood parasite species. This means it lays its eggs in other birds’ nests and leaves other parents to raise their young for them.

Over the centuries, they have developed incredible skills to increase their chances of success, such as matching the color of their eggs to those of their target. Still, about 20% of eggs get spotted and rejected by discerning mothers.

Because of the cuckoo bird nest stealing habit, some cuckoo species, including the common cuckoo, never build nests.

In defense of the bigger cuckoo family, though, only about 40% of cuckoos adhere to the brood parasite strategy. The remaining members all build nests and raise their own young.

Common Cuckoo chick ejects eggs of Reed Warbler out of the nest. David Attenborough’s opinion

Watch a cuckoo chick “get rid of competition” to be raised alone by a Reed Warbler.

Read more: How many species of birds in the world?

Cuckoo Distribution and Habitat


Generally, any place with moderate weather that isn’t too cold, hot, wet, or dry can become a cuckoo bird habitat. Additionally, they prefer areas with a plentiful supply of food and water and lots of foliage for shelter.

Because of this rather basic list of needs, cuckoos are nearly everywhere except the driest deserts in the Middle East and Antarctica.

However, cuckoos are also found everywhere because they travel – a lot. Cuckoos are so particular about their preferred weather they regularly migrate for it.

European cuckoos are known for their annual flight between the UK and Africa every spring. Scientists even tracked a remarkably determined cuckoo that traveled over 7,500 miles to reach its destination!

Are There Cuckoos in the US?

There are three species of cuckoo birds North America.

1. Black-billed Cuckoo


The black-billed cuckoo is the most common in the US, spotted from Southern Canada down to Florida.

This species looks a little different than what most expect a cuckoo bird looks like: it’s brown, slim, and has red eyes, a black bill, and white-tipped tail feathers.

2. Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Yellow-billed cuckoos are found mainly in the south, particularly in the lowland areas of Florida. However, its range can extend to Mexico.

This species is also known as “storm crows” because they tend to be especially noisy on hot and humid days when rain is approaching.

3. Mangrove Cuckoo


As their name suggests, mangrove cuckoos live in mangroves in southern Florida. This cuckoo does not migrate since the weather of its homestays pleasantly mild all year round.

Frequently Asked Questions

What country is the cuckoo native to?

It is difficult to name one country that cuckoos are native to or where are cuckoo birds found.

As mentioned, they are found everywhere, from the Americas to Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia!

What eats a cuckoo bird?

Being small birds, cuckoos are often preyed upon by bigger birds of prey, including falcons and hawks. There have even been reports of cuckoo birds being eaten by tiger sharks!

Meanwhile, cuckoo eggs are often targeted by many egg-eating species. Depending on where the specific cuckoo lives, these predators can include snakes, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, blue jays, crows, skunks, opossums, and more.      

What is special about a cuckoo bird?


Here are some interesting cuckoo birds facts:

  • Cuckoo birds have “zygodactyl” feet, which means they have two claws that point forward, and two toes that point backward. Most songbirds have three claws facing forward and one backward.
  • Female cuckoos “chuckle” like a sparrowhawk as they secretly deposit their eggs into unsuspecting (and now, distracted and frightened) surrogate parents’ nests.
  • In almost all languages, the cuckoo bird is named after its call. For example, the French call it Coucou, the Germans kuckuk, and the Japanese kak-ko!

What does the cuckoo bird symbolize?   

The number of different cultures with their symbolism or picture of cuckoo birds is another testament to how globally widespread this species is.

Indian mythology, for example, considers the bird a symbol of hope and fertility. On the other hand, Native Americans associate cuckoos with laziness due to their habit of having others raise their young for it.

Meanwhile, many others, including the Japanese and the Celts, think of cuckoos as omens of death.


Cuckoos are such an exciting bird family because they are so broad and varied. Some live in trees, some live in the ground, and some are known to run very fast.

And where do cuckoo birds live? Like a big, extended family, there are some on practically every continent in the world!

So wherever you are, as long as it’s not Antarctica, learning how your local cuckoos sound and act may be worthwhile. You may be surprised at what you’ll discover!

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