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Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature

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The arms' race between the wily cuckoo and ever more crafty host birds revealed by a man who has dedicated his working life to one of nature's great mysteries - how does the cuckoo get away with it?

About the Author

Nick Davies is Professor of Behavioural Ecology at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Pembroke College. His cuckoo research has been presented on BBC 4 Radio, and as a BBC film, produced by Mike Birkhead and narrated by David Attenborough. His previous books include Cuckoos, Cowbirds and other Cheats that won Best Book of the Year from the British Trust for Ornithology and British Birds Magazine.


This amazing detective story by one of the country's greatest field naturalists is also a fascinating study that solves many of the puzzles surrounding this most extraordinary bird * Sir David Attenborough * Wonderful * Country Life * Davies' beguiling account of his 30 years' cuckoo-watching on the East Anglian fens brings a far more sensible and revelatory approach to the subject. Davies is a leading field naturalist whose work will be known to Radio 4 listeners. He frames his research and discoveries as "a nature detective story", a natural history-mystery ... The tale features astonishing insights into the processes of both evolution and scientific research, and it beguiles because of Davies' plain, personable style and his relating of his own experiments ... the reader is taken nest-hunting, fake-egg planting and landscape-gazing. Rich, tactile description is lightly burnished with the poetic while illustrations by watercolourist James McCallum complete a package that will suit both dedicated twitcher and armchair naturalist alike, and gives springtime's feathered friend and fiend a fair hearing at last -- Richard Benson * Independent * The cuckoo ... is also nature's most notorious cheat. Ever since Aristotle noted ... that "it lays its eggs in the nest of small birds after devouring these birds' eggs", people have been appalled by its parasitic behaviour and puzzled by how on earth, given its disproportionate size compared with its hosts, it gets away with such brazen dissembling. In this fascinating piece of natural-history detective work, Nick Davies, professor of behavioural ecology at Cambridge University, looks at how it does it * Sunday Times * Davies is a hugely knowledgeable and readable guide, whose reasoning is often fascinating ... This is a fine and involving book, whose insights - wrung from decades of hard graft and constant questioning - make you wonder again at nature's extraordinary ingenuity * Sunday Times * Charming ... Reveals how Wicken's reed warblers are locked in an evolutionary arms race in The Fens with the female cuckoo -- John Ingham * Daily Express * A new book tells in mesmerising detail how the host birds are first outwitted by the female cuckoo, and then by the cuckoo chick. Cuckoo - Cheating By Nature is by Nick Davies, the world expert on Cuculus canorus, the Eurasian cuckoo, our bird. He gives a riveting account not only of how the cuckoo evolves deceptive stratagems, such as eggs which mimic the eggs of the host, but also of how the host birds evolve defences, such as learning to reject any eggs which seems slightly different from their own. This is in effect an "evolutionary arms race" and its complexities are elucidated with exemplary clarity and humour by Professor Davies ... An even more fascinating take on curious behaviour. I've just read it, and it's a terrific read * Independent * The perfect combination of science and folklore -- Stephen Moss, Best Books of 2015 * Guardian * Fascinating ... A fine and involving book, whose insights make you wonder again at nature's extraordinary ingenuity -- Andrew Holgate * Sunday Times *

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