Before coming to Germany I was really only aware of the cuckoo bird thanks to Swiss and German cuckoo clocks.
When I lived in the Black Forest I would occasionally hear them in the woods, and when you actually hear them you immediately understand why they are called cuckoos. The clocks are a fairly accurate approximation of their call. But I knew nothing about them.
Perhaps we have the expression in English to lay a cuckoo's egg in someone's nest, but I've never heard it. In any case, in German it is a fairly common expression. For example, something like this: “ein Jammer, daß diese nette Familie so ein Kuckucksei ausbrüten musste.“ What a shame that such a nice family has to hatch such a cuckoo's egg.
If you are not familiar with how cuckoos operate, this brief and very interesting clip explains it well. In short, a female cuckoo lays her egg in another bird's nest -- no more work or responsibility, strangers take over. When the cuckoo hatches, it immediately sets about to push the other eggs out of the nest. Strangely the parents of the murdered victims are incapable of recognizing that this cuckoo isn't their offspring. Cuckoos are ravenously hungry and are often considerably larger than their "new" parents, these poor birds are overwhelmed trying to feed this massive intruder.
Yesterday my wife called me over to our bedroom window to see a cuckoo resting on the branch of a fir tree only a few meters away. She had been watching it being fed by a blackbird (Amsel in German). I was really surprised by how large it is, especially as I looked down and saw the blackbird busily collecting worms below. The cuckoo noticed us and flew toward the trunk of the tree. Unfortunately, we have a textile screen on the window so I cannot photograph it without a lot of hassle.
The blackbirds are such a joy in the spring, they are among the best singers in the bird world. They are observant and smart. For example, I was moving some stepping stones in the garden a while ago, and of course under the stones there were earth worms. A blackbird quickly became my buddy and patiently waited for me to get out of his way so he could grab a snack. The next day I continued the same project and he was there again, this time though, he picked up a big juicy worm and kind of flung it in my direction. When I didn't pick it up, he seemed a little agitated.
So I must admit, seeing that cuckoo abusing this pair of blackbirds, a part of me wanted to try and intervene, but of course we have to let nature take it's course. Sadly, this cuckoo will probably return next year to lay its egg and another cuckoo will take the place of three or four blackbirds. Germany's national bird is the eagle, but lately one wonders if perhaps the cuckoo should become the symbolic bird of the EU.
After the cuckoo encounter I went over to the little lake nearby for a morning swim, and while swimming on my back I was treated to a fantastic airshow by a group of “Swift” birds (Mauersegler). They are some of the fastest birds on the planet, and incredible aeronautical acrobats. They must see in what we would perceive as slow-motion. They are extremely fast and in an instant they swoop down grab an insect off the surface or take a sip of water (it's way too fast to actually follow what is happening.) They are an absolute joy to watch, especially when swimming because they aren't shy and fly by very close
A while back we were sitting outside there was a bunch of insects swarming around, and out of nowhere a group of swifts started dive bombing and eating them, it was so fast you couldn't really follow it. I've since learned that these incredible birds can spend almost a year in flight without ever landing!!!!!!! Check out these two clips.
Below a beautiful story of rescuing a Swift bird