THE CUCKOO'S - SECRET [To the Editor of Tim SPECTATOR.]
Sia,—I have read with interest the letter from your corre- spondent, Captain Bernard Acworth. I notice that he admits he is not a field observer; if he had been, he could never have made the amazing suggestion that the egg which produces the young cuckoo is laid by the foster-mother ! And who are the " world-famed ornithologists " who support such a theory ?
I am a strong supporter of , Mr. Chance's statement that cuckoos always lay their eggs direct into the nest of the fosterer. I will defy anyone to bring forward photographic proof that she does otherwise. I say most emphatically that no cuckoo ever has, or ever will, deposit her egg in the nest with her beak. In every instance which has been carefully investigated, it has been found that it was possible for the cuckoo to lay direct into the nest. Many observers have made the statement that it was not possible, but they forget that, wheh the cuckoo lays; the whole action is so rapid that she might be said to project the egg into the nest, and by doing this she • is able to lay into domed nests, and others where the feat apparently seems impossible.
Competent observers have now watched the cuckoo lay her egg direct into ate nest of the fosterer on over 100 occasions, and the fosterers have consisted of seven different species. On the other hand, the old theory of, depositing the egg,with the beak has held good for well over 1,000 years, yet the amazing thing is that during the whole of that period -there is not one authentic instance of a competent observer having seen her do such an unnatural thing !
Cuckoos are confirmed egg-thieves, and I have on several occasions watched one steal an egg from a nest and fly off with it in her beak. It is because so many observers have seen cuckoos carrying stolen eggs that this old theory has held good for so many years.
My films of the cuckoo, taken in conjunction with Mr. Edgar Chance, prove beyond every shadow-of doubt that the cuckoo lays direct into the nest.—I ain, Sir, &c., OLIVER G. PIKE.
The Bungalow, Leighton Buzzard.