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Great spotted cuckoo

At the end of February Great spotted cuckoos can be seen already in the Languedoc. They are one of the first migrating birds to arrive in the Languedoc from Africa.

The Great spotted cuckoo is slightly larger than the common Cuckoo, but looks much larger with its broad wings and long narrow tail. Dark above, with small white spots and pale below. Crown and ear-coverts silvery grey.  Sexes are similar. The juveniles have blackish upperparts and cap, and chestnut primary wing feathers. The great spotted cuckoo has a magpie-like flight.

Great spotted cuckoo’s habitat, breeding and feeding

It’s a bird of warm open country with trees near vineyards. It feeds on insects, spiders, small reptiles and hairy caterpillars, which are distasteful to many birds. Most of the time a Magpie nest is chosen to raise their young. Unlike the common Cuckoo the Great spotted cuckoo’s hatched chick does not evict the host’s eggs, but young Magpies have little chance of survival because of the food competition.

great spotted cuckoo

Great spotted cuckoo


I’ve seen Great spotted cuckoos in the town center of le Barcares and in my backyard in Cessenon sur Orb. I guess they are not that picky about their habitat.

The Great spotted cuckoo call is a loud cher-cher-kri-kri and variations.

When to find the Great spotted cuckoo in the Languedoc

Below you can see the average numbers of Great spotted cuckoo observed in the Languedoc.


great spotted cuckoo spotted in the Languedoc


Population trends for the Great spotted cuckoo

The Great spotted Cuckoo is a protected species on the IUCN red list. The population trend in Europe appears to be stable, and so the species is not listed as vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations).

According to the  IUCN:

Hunting and traffic accidents are the main causes of mortality in southern Europe. In Crete it is preyed upon by Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae) 



Maurice Riekert
I grew up in the Netherlands and have been birdwatching for 30 years. And since moving to Cessenon sur Orb, in the Languedoc, in 2011, I have rediscovered my passion for birds and wildlife in general. I had never really heard of birding in France apart from the Camargue, but in the Languedoc I now realise that we have the same species and they are much more accessible to the public. Every time I see a group of 20 Black kite migrating, which is normal over here, I still love it. Favorite birds: raptors.

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