Reviewing 30 years of studies on the Common Cuckoo - accumulated knowledge and future perspectives
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Original versionChinese Birds. 2013, 4 (1), 3-14.
In Europe, eggs of the Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) have been found in more than 125 different host species. However, very few species are frequently parasitized. The Cuckoo is divided into several distinct races termed gentes. Females of each gens specialize in parasitizing a particular host species. More than 20 such gentes are recognized in Europe. Each female Cuckoo lays eggs of constant appearance. Most gentes can be separated based on their distinct egg types, which in many cases mimic those of their hosts. Different gentes may occur in sympatry or may be separated geographically. Some gentes may occur in restricted parts of the host’s distribution area. These patterns raise some fundamental questions like: Why are some passerine species preferred as hosts while others are not? Why does a host population consist of individuals either accepting or rejecting Cuckoo eggs? Why is there marked variation in egg rejection behavior between various host populations? How distinct and host-specialized are Cuckoo gentes? These questions are discussed in relation to existing knowledge and future perspectives.