« On connaît son chant, si caractérisque au printemps, et ses mœurs particulières... Mais combien d'observateurs ont vu le coucou gris ? » — ["We know its call, so characteristic in springtime, and its unusual behaviors... But how many bird-watchers have actually seen a cuckoo bird?"]Well, I have. We have a cuckoo in the area that likes to perch at the very top of the big Himalayan cedar in our yard and do its cuckooing call these spring mornings. And now that we have our loft and can get to the upper-story windows to look out, I can actually see the cuckoo. That's « le coucou » in French.
If you've ever heard a cuckoo clock "chime" the hour, you know what the cuckoo sounds like. In fact, when we first moved here, a friend came from the western U.S. for a visit. The first morning she was here, she emerged from the guest bedroom at an early hour and requested that we turn off the cuckoo clock so that she might sleep a little later the next day. We told her that we didn't have a cuckoo clock, but an actual cuckoo bird, and there wasn't much we could do about the loud cuckooing.
Another book we have, The New Birdwatcher's Pocket Guide to Britain and Europe, calls the cuckoo bird a "familiar disembodied voice." The cuckooing in Europe starts in April, when the birds return from their winter territories in southeastern Africa. The cuckoos fly back down there in July or August. We only hear them cuckooing from April through June. If you don't want to be awakened by them early in the morning, don't come to Saint-Aignan in springtime.
Still another bird book on the shelf, the Collins New Generation Guide: Birds of Britain and Europe, says that the female cuckoo lays 25 eggs per season. That would be a lot of eggs in one nest, but no problem, of course. The cuckoo never builds one. She just lays each egg in the nest of other birds, after pushing out the eggs she finds there. The other birds hatch her egg and feed her little one until it fledges and then flies back to Africa.