Bird Families

Madagascar cuckoo Delaland - Wikipedia


† Delaland's Madagascar Cuckoo
Scientific classification
intermediate ranks
No rank:Bilaterally symmetrical
No rank:Secondary
A type:Chordates
Subclass:Real birds
Subfamily:Variegated cuckoos
Genus:Madagascar cuckoos
View:Delaland's Madagascar cuckoo
International scientific nameCoua delalandei

Delaland's Madagascar Cuckoo

, or
cua Delalande
(lat.Coua delalandei) is an extinct bird species from the cuckoo family (Cuculidae). The specific epithet is given in honor of the French naturalist Pierre-Antoine Delaland (English) Russian. (1787-1823).


Museum reconstruction
Madagascar Delaland's cuckoo reached a length of 56 cm. The length of the wings ranged from 21.7 to 22.6 cm, the tail was 25.6 to 30 cm long. The upper part of the body was dark blue, the lower part was white and chestnut. The head was dark purple. The bare blue skin of her face was surrounded by a black wreath of feathers. The back was blue. The tail was blue with a greenish tint. The outer tail feathers had white tops. The throat and upper chest were white, and the belly was chestnut. The beak, legs and feet were black. The eyes were brown. Like other species of Madagascar cuckoos, the species was not a breeding parasite.

Common cuckoo

Latin name:Cuculus canorus
English name:Cuckoo
Detachment:Cuckoo (Cuculiformes)
Family:Cuckoo (Cuculidae)
Body length, cm:32–34
Wingspan, cm:55–60
Body weight, g:70–160
Features:voice, nest parasitism
Number, million pairs:1,3–1,9
Conservation status:BERNA 3
Habitat:Wetland species
Additionally:Russian description of the species

Somewhat smaller than the crested cuckoo, the tail is shorter, the wings are narrower. The underside of the body with clearly visible transverse stripes There are two color morphs: one with a predominance of gray in the coloration of the upper body, head, goiter and chest, the other, more rare, reddish. Sexual dimorphism is weak. Juveniles have transverse stripes all over the body and white spots on the vertex and occiput.
Spread... This is a migratory, distant migrant. There are 4 subspecies in Eurasia and North-West Africa. In Europe, the cuckoo is widespread, up to the north of Scandinavia. Winters in South Africa. In Italy, in the summer, there are more than 50 thousand males, meeting up to an altitude of over 2 thousand meters above sea level.

Habitat... The species is common, inhabits forests and shrubs of various landscapes, often found in rural areas: in gardens, on wooded plains and hills. Distribution is associated with passerine birds, in whose nests the cuckoo lays eggs.

Biology... The common cuckoo is a nest parasite. Beginning in April, it lays one egg in the nests of various passerines. After 12 days of incubation by foster parents, a cuckoo hatches. In a short time, the newborn pushes the eggs and chicks of the owners out of the nest with its back. The chick stays in the nest for 17–19 days, and if it feeds on warblers, then a week less. It feeds on various insects, often hairy silkworm caterpillars. The voice of the male is a two-syllable "ku-ku", of the female - a loud trill of "aphids-aphids-aphids" and a dull sound similar to laughter. In flight, it resembles a sparrowhawk, but differs from the latter in a longer and wedge-shaped tail and a "non-predatory" beak.

Interesting fact... One female can lay up to 20 eggs per season, usually one per nest. The color of the eggs in most cases is similar to that of the eggs of the host species. There are about 150 species of birds (mainly representatives of the Warbler family) known to be parasitized by the common cuckoo. In Italy, the number of host species (all passerines) reaches 50.

Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Other species of this family:

Crested cuckoo Clamator glandarius Distinguishing features: plumage coloration, voice, nest parasitism


The last reliable specimen of the species was obtained in 1834 for the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Destruction of living space and excessive hunting were probably the main causes of the extinction. Cuckoos were hunted with loops because of their feathers. After the rumor of the appearance of the cuckoo near Maroantsere spread in the 1920s, the French zoologist Louis Lavaudet (fr.) Russian. undertook a search in 1932, which, however, was not crowned with success. In 1937, the species was finally declared extinct at the suggestion of ornithologist Austin Loomer Rand. Today, 13 stuffed birds can be seen in museums in London, Paris, Leiden, Liverpool, New York, Cambridge (Massachusetts), Brussels, Antananarivo, Stuttgart and Vienna, and the bird from the ZIN RAS museum is the only one in Russia.

Delaland's Madagascar cuckoo

The largest ornithological collection in Russia is kept within the walls of the Zoological Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. A magnificent exposition of stuffed animals, which came mainly in the pre-revolutionary years, with its wealth can give an idea of ​​the diversity of the avifauna of our planet to a visitor of any age and any level of knowledge. This collection contains truly unique exhibits of great historical and scientific value. One of them was acquired by the first director of the museum, F.F. Brandt, in 1834 and is still on display in the section devoted to cuckoos. Around the world, no more than 15 specimens of this species are known, scattered across museum collections in Europe, the USA and Madagascar, and the bird from the Museum of the ZIN RAS is the only one in Russia. We are talking about the Madagascar cuckoo Delaland (Coua delalandei
), which completely disappeared under the influence of anthropogenic factors more than a century ago.

Delaland's Madagascar cuckoo on display at the Zoological Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. Photo © Pavel Smirnov from his article “Madagascar Delaland's cuckoo (Coua delalandei

): an unexpected find of a specimen of an extinct bird in the ornithological collection of the Russian museum "

This species belonged to the genus of Madagascar cuckoos (Coua

), also known as koua or tivuki. Its representatives are distinguished by characteristic areas of bare skin around the eyes, painted in various shades of blue. Delaland's cuckoo was rather large for its kind: its length reached 56–57 cm. The upper part of the bird's body was painted dark blue, the throat and chest were white, the lower part of the abdomen and undertail were bright red. The central pair of tail feathers was entirely blue, while the rest of the tail feathers had light tops. The color of the cuckoo's eyes is described in various sources as either yellow or dark brown. No visual differences were noted between males and females. According to the results of DNA analysis of the species of the genus, the closest relatives of the extinct bird are the living Madagascar red-breasted cuckoos.
C. serriana
and gigantic
C. gigas

Giant Madagascar cuckoo (Coua gigas

). Photo © Marcus Lilje from

Although there is some evidence that the Delaland cuckoo's range included forests of northeastern Madagascar, there is no reliable evidence of this. All specimens of the species known to science were obtained on a small island of Nosy-Buraha (formerly Sainte-Marie), which lies 6 km east of the Malagasy "mainland". Observations made by researchers in the first half of the 19th century in nature and in aviation describe the bird as an inhabitant of the lower tier of low-lying tropical forests, nimbly jumping from branch to branch or from stone to stone, but at the same time perfectly able to fly. There is no information about the nesting behavior of the species, but with a certain degree of certainty it can be argued that the extinct cuckoo built nests and incubated the clutch itself, as other representatives of the genus do. The main object of food for Delaland's cuckoo was the Achatina snails, the shells of which the birds cleverly smashed against the "anvils" of stones. Due to the specialization in snail feeding in English, the bird is called "snail-eating coua", or "koua-snail-eater". It is curious that for Madagascar and the neighboring islands, Achatina are considered introduced: they were introduced by humans, presumably from Kenya, back in the 18th century. Up to this point, it appears that the cuckoo's diet was composed of other gastropods.

Chromolithography of Delalande's cuckoo, made for the work of Alfred Grandidier "Histoire physique, naturelle, et politique de Madagascar"

The scientific description of the Madagascar cuckoo Delalande received in 1827 in the work of the Dutch zoologist, director of the Museum of Natural History in Leiden, Konrad Jacob Temminck under the name "Nouveau recueil de planches coloriées d'oiseaux". Quite quickly, the narrow-range species completely disappeared from the field of view of scientists: the last of the well-dated specimens known to this day was obtained in 1834. Organized searches, including those carried out in the 20th century on the territory of Madagascar, did not bring any results; reports of probable bird encounters in the 1920s have no documentary evidence. In 1932, birders in the alleged habitats of the cuckoo were promised large sums of money for capturing the species, but they remained unpaid. The main reasons for the extinction of the Delalande cuckoo are considered to be the complete destruction of the primary forests of Nosy-Burakh in the century before last, combined with the predation of invasive mammals (mainly rats and cats) and hunting for meat and beautiful feathers.

Delaland's cuckoo in the collection of the Naturalis Museum, Leiden (Netherlands). Photo © Huub Veldhuijzen van Zanten from website

The disappearance of this unique bird was not the first loss in the cuckoo family that happened during a person's life on the planet. So, within the same kind Coua

completely extinct two more large terrestrial species from Madagascar -
C. berthae
C. primaeva
... Both, apparently, fell victims of the first wave of anthropogenic transformation of the island, unable to withstand the pressure from the pioneers and their economic activities, European researchers have not seen these birds alive. The clearing of primary forests by man is associated with the disappearance of the small cuckoo in the 18th century.
Nannococcyx psix
from the island of Saint Helena. Among a number of birds that no longer sound Henderson Island in the South Pacific Ocean, there is also one large cuckoo - a coel from the genus
, which still has no scientific description. All these species are known exclusively from subfossil bones found in Holocene sediments in their habitats, and information about their biology is incomparably less than what museums and contemporaries have preserved about the Delaland cuckoo. You can still look at the Delaland cuckoo today - but, alas, only in the form of old stuffed animals, keeping the memory of a life that has no place in our rapidly changing world.

Illustration © Peter Schouten from A Gap in Nature.

For recently extinct birds, see. also:

1) Endangered New Zealand Wrens, The Elements, 06/21/2016. 2) The volcano that killed the bird, "Elements", 25.07.2016. 3) The last of the moho kind, "Elements", 03/09/2017.

Pavel Smirnov


  • Robert B. Payne: The Cuckoos. Bird Families of the World. Volume 15
    , Oxford University Press, 2005 ISBN 0-19-850213-3
  • James C. Greenway: Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. Dover Publications Inc., New York 1967, ISBN 0-486-21869-4.
  • Errol Fuller: Extinct Birds. 2000, ISBN 0-8160-1833-2.
  • David Day: The Doomsday Book of Animals. Ebury Press, London 1981, ISBN 0-670-27987-0.
  • Tim Flannery & Peter Schouten: A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2001. ISBN 0-87113-797-6

Educator species

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The frequency of "infestation" of nests with eggs of the Madagascar little cuckoo was 4.8% (10 cuckoo eggs per 210 clutches), in nests - 2% (1 egg per 50 nests), in nests - 12.5% ​​(1 egg per 8 nests) ...

In addition, as species-educators were noted,,,,, ,,.

Eggs are white or yellowish, sometimes pinkish with dark brown or red dots forming a corolla at the blunt end. Cuckoo eggs usually do not match host eggs in color. Egg sizes 18.5x10 mm, shell weight 0.12 g (n = 35).