Grey warbler

Now watch out, riroriro! Shining cuckoos are calling in the Aongatete forest. They have flown here from the Solomon Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago to lay eggs in the nests of riroriro – the grey warbler. The cuckoo lays her egg in the riroriro’s nest, tossing out one riroriro egg to keep the number the same. When the young cuckoo chick hatches it tramples or pushes out the riroriro eggs or chicks. Then it grows into a large and hungry juvenile, demanding more and more food from its tiny foster parents.

To us it seems a mean trick to foist your chick on other birds but the two species have been living together in this way for thousands of years. The riroriro will have their first nest in August, before the cuckoos arrived, and be able to rear their own chicks undisturbed. The cuckoos only arrive in November in time for the second riroriro nest.

Shining Cuckoo

Riroriro eat insects and they have adapted to living in gardens and in pine forests so they remain quite common. You can identify them by their tuneful song, which seems to go on and on with stopping for breath.

The cuckoos face the destruction of their tropical forests and their long and perilous migrations. Here in New Zealand they often fly into windows. If you have a problem window, put a decoration on the glass so the bird doesn’t think it can fly through.