We all know Cuckoos as the harbingers of spring – whose haunting calls proclaim the birds own name across fields and reedbeds. A bird much more often heard than actually seen, and often mistaken for a hawk or falcon when briefly glimpsed in flight. Cuckoos are also well known, perhaps even infamous, for their habit of laying their own eggs into the nests of much smaller species, such as reed warblers, who are then doomed to raise the enormous cuckoo chick rather than their own young, and whose eggs are ruthlessly thrown from the nest by the cuckoo hatchling.
But how does this complex behaviour act out in nature, and how did it evolve? What are the cuckoo's special tricks and what counter-measures have the host birds developed to resist the depredations of cuckoos? In The Cuckoo: The Uninvited Guest the authors delve into the stories behind what we see, and into the complex and ever evolving evolutionary arms race by which the nest parasite and its hosts constantly try to leapfrog each other into prime position. The natural history of the cuckoo-host struggle is illuminated with detailed explanations of the results of behavioural and ecological research to provide a comprehensive, but highly readable, account in which an insight into one puzzle constantly reveals a new question begging an answer.
The whole story is brought vividly to life through the astonishing photographs of Oldo Mikulica, who has watched cuckoos and their various hosts from hides for almost four decades. The result is a unique and beautiful book which both informs and delights.
"[...] a book to savour."
– Christopher Perrins, Ibis 161(2)
"[...] This book is a real delight: it sets a new standard for books of its type and it is hard to imagine any readers of BB not enjoying it as well as learning a great deal from it."
– Ian Carter, British Birds 110, March 2017
"[...] With a foreword by Nick Davies, behavioural ecologist and author of Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature, I cannot recommend this most recent addition to the body of literature exposing the secrets of the Cuckoo's deception highly enough. But it is surely the breathtaking camera work, sensitively illustrating every facet of the life of this fascinating species that will keep the reader coming back to this book."
– Justin Walker, BTO book reviews
"It isn't often, even in these days of stunning photography, that a bird book comes along and leaves you speechless with admiration. For its outstanding images, text and overall design, this 'uninvited guest' is more than welcome. The images, all taken by Oldo Mikulica over several years are of superb artistry and quality, and provide us with an intimate series of glimpses into the endlessly fascinating world of the common cuckoo. Researchers have discovered a great deal about cuckoo biology, but photographers with their unrivalled patience often see and capture things overlooked or rarely seen by others, and the images here – the birds themselves, their eggs, chicks and food – are presented in a wonderfully effective and comprehensive way. This isn't simply a picture book, however, the text, written in an accessible and engaging style, is up to date, scholarly and eminently readable. My bird book of the year!"
– Tim Birkhead, BBC Wildlife
"The Cuckoo features prominently in today’s ornithological literature, most notably in Nick Davies’s splendid Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature, published only last year. This new book from a team of Czech, Norwegian and German ornithologists and a Czech photographer addresses the same subject matter but in a dramatically different way. Davies’s book was a conventional, though highly accessible, science book, heavy on narrative and argument. By contrast, this book has a much more ‘light touch’ text with much of the impact coming from its photographs. The two works are therefore complementary, a point underlined by the fact that Davies has contributed its eloquent Foreword. [...] Despite the high quality of the text, the most eyecatching feature of this book is its outstanding collection of Cuckoo photographs, the work of Oldřich Mikulica [...]"
– Andy Stoddart, 21 December 2016, Rare Bird Alert