31 May 2009

Coucou !

A lot of people who come to visit us, and not just Americans, tell me they have never heard the cuckoo bird before — « le coucou » in French. Here's a video from early May in which you can hear the cuckoo cuckooing in the background.

The coucous arrive in the Saint-Aignan area in April and fly back to Africa in July. They say the arrival of the swallows marks the beginning of spring, but for us it's the arrival of the cuckoo birds.


  1. And now they have changed their tune in June, as the rhyme goes (albeit a few days early). They have stopped cuckooing and are doing their much less distinctive call now.

  2. Is that an English rhyme? We don't have cuckoos in America so we don't have any sayings about them (except maybe the clocks).

  3. this used to be a staple of comparative lit majors' medieval english studies, when the world was young and still contained any of those things. i still like it and sing it (it's a round) and the video made me think of it:

    Sumer is icumen in, lhude sing cucu;

    Groweth seed and bloweth meed, and springth the wode nu,

    Sing cucu!

    E-we bleateth after lamb, looth after calve cu;

    Bulloc staerteth, bucke verteth,

    Merry sing cucu!

    Cucu, cucu, well singes thu, cucu,

    Ne swik thu nahver nu.

  4. We have coucous here too. Their singing is so beautiful and carries for kilometers.

  5. Yes, we do have cuckoos in the US, or at least a bird that is of the cuckoo family: the Roadrunner.

    They don't cuckoo, but their cooing resemble that of a mourning dove.

    It took me a long time to figure out who was doing that cooing sitting on my roof until I found out it was a roadrunner [a roofrunner?].

  6. I had no idea they came or went back to Africa. And for such a short time. Given the 'cuckoo in the nest' syndrome I had always had them down as slightly slovenly, lazy birds ! I have completely revised my opinion. A good piece of Cuckoo PR !

  7. I love the cuckoo for spring but the arrival of the hoopoes in the garden IS Summer for me.

    We get masses of nightingales too.


  8. I agree about the hoopoes — that's really summer. They come from Africa too. We saw a lot of them in 2008, down on the Ile d'Oléron and up here around Saint-Aignan. The cuckoos really are the sign of springtime. In the fall and winter, we see a lot of big green woodpeckers, and thousands of titbirds.

    Our cuckoos still have their highly distinctive call, by the way. I lay and bed listening to one cuckooing starting at about 5:30 this morning.

  9. The Cuckoo comes in April
    and sings his song in May
    in June he changes tune
    and July he flys away

    You are quite right Ken. Just to prove me wrong, our's cuckoo'd last night too, after several days of not doing so. Presumably there is some cross-over calling while they decide what they are doing.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?