7 JUNE 1935, Page 16

*• * * • The Delicate Cuckoo

A number of very melancholy finds have been made by keepers and others in my part of the country. They have picked up the bodies of many dead birds, most of them cuckoos. The birds were very numerous. On every side "the ribald

• cuckoo clamoured "—in Robert Bridges' phrase. Today it is almost an event to hear his dissyllable. It seemed likely that some of the young birds would suffer from untimely cold ; and in Scotland at any rate young robins were killed in quantity ; but these cuckoos were not young but old. So far as my experience goes it is rare for a big bird to be killed by cold even in the winter which decimates the tiniest of all birds, the long-tailed tit, and destroys thousands of

redwing. For a grown bird to be killed in the middle of May is a calamity unrecorded in the countryman's annals. It seems to be proof that the preservation of life itself compels birds to migrate to the south. Not only the food problem is involved, though the cuckoo is one of the most highly specialized of dietetists.