Identifying birds by their songs can be tricky; but you know at least one – the male cuckoo, which calls its name across our local commons in early summer.  The female voice is an excited trilling also described as bubbling.  As April arrivals with a distinctive call “Cuck – Koo” and the habit of conning other smaller birds into rearing its chicks, the cuckoo has a major place in our folklore.  From letters to the Times, music by Delius and the old country saying ‘The hawk never strikes when the cuckoo calls’, it is known even to those with little interest in wildlife.

A slim, grey, long-tailed bird with a small head, its general appearance can be confused with a hawk. It perches almost horizontally and flies with very rapid shallow wingbeats, often low and far.  Many mornings on Bookham Common I’ve hopefully watched a fly past only to have the bird disappear in the distance before landing.  On Thursley Common, a more obliging bird has been encouraged by photographers who feed him and over the past eleven years has become known as Colin.  At the time of writing, whether he will come a twelfth time for this summer is not known.

Cuckoo are in trouble, almost certainly from changing climate and habitats on their long migrations to tropical Africa.  The availability of satellite tracking kit small enough to attach to birds has told us a lot more about the journeys these birds make. You can follow the journeys and discover a lot more about cuckoos at

If you want to learn more about birds locally, get in touch with Dorking and District RSPB local group via its website or by Facebook (RSPB Dorking).