Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-My-Vrou) by Maree  Clarkson

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Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-My-Vrou) by 

W&N watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm

A bird in the hand is a certainty, but a bird in the bush may sing.
- Bret Harte

30th October 8.04 am and I’ve just heard the Piet-My-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo – Cuculus solitarius) for the first time this season! It’s rather late, I normally hear them at the beginning of October, but it’s as if they’ve waited for the first rains before being heard! (We had 20mm of rain last night and 15mm the night before, so the world around here in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa) is looking and smelling sparkling clean!) They’re extremely shy and very hard to spot, but I managed to get a quick (not-so-good!) shot with my camera before he disappeared back into the thick foliage. Had to use my bird book to complete all the colours.

I have held most bird species in my hands at least once, but with the Red-chested Cuckoo I have not had that pleasure…

In Southern Africa, all cuckoos are migratory (the Klaas’s and Emerald Cuckoos appear to be resident in the warmer east), arriving from Central or Eastern Africa at the start of the rainy season in late September and October. Upon arrival, the males establish territories and advertise their presence to females (and birdwatchers!) by calling incessantly, sometimes even after dark.

The Red-chested Cuckoo is mainly found in the eastern half of southern Africa, and is quite common in protected areas, living in a wide range of habitats. It feeds mostly on invertebrates, particularly hairy caterpillars but also grasshoppers and beetles, amongst others. It mostly parasitizes members of Muscicapidae (robins, thrushes, flycatchers, etc.), rushing into their nests, and removing the host’s eggs before laying one of its own, all in just 5 seconds! Once the chick is 2 days old, it evicts the host’s eggs and nestlings. It stays in the nest for 17-21 days, and is dependent on its host parents for 20-25 days more, before becoming fully independent. (Info from Wikipedia)

This Cuckoo occurs throughout Africa south of the Sahara, but avoids arid regions. In southern Africa it is common in eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and eastern and southern South Africa. It generally prefers Afromontane forest, closed woodland, Miombo woodland, open savanna thickets, stands of trees in human settlements, mature gardens and parks.

Piet-my-vrou [Afrikaans]; Uphezukomkhono [Xhosa]; uPhezukomkhono [Zulu]; Mukuku (generic term for cuckoos and coucals) [Kwangali]; Tlo-nke-tsoho [South Sotho]; Phezukwemkhono [Swazi]; Ngwafalantala [Tsonga]; Heremietkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucou solitaire [French]; Einsiedlerkuckuck [German]; Cuco-de-peito-vermelho [Portuguese]

  1. 31st October 2011 – FEATURED in Works on Paper
  2. 5th November 2011 – FEATURED in The Birds
  3. 10th November 2011 – FEATURED in Painters Universe
  4. 18th September 2012 – FEATURED in The Best of Anything & Everything

I am a watercolorist living on my little piece of African soil in Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa. The inspiration for my art is the wonderfully rich variety of Fauna and Flora to be found throughout this beautiful country.
“There is a fine line between dreams and reality; it’s up to you to draw it.”

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  • Elizabeth Kendall
    Elizabeth Kendallabout 3 years ago

    Lucky you to see him! Lovely painting Maree!

  • Thanks a lot and I agree Liz, I sometimes listen to him from about 4 in the morning right through the day without spotting him!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • Juliane Porter
    Juliane Porterabout 3 years ago

    Just lovely! As always your work is sparkly and beautiful! ~Juliane of

  • Aaah, thanks ever so much for those lovely words Juliane! Just visited your website, stunning, will be returning there!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • LoneAngel
    LoneAngelabout 3 years ago

    stunning work

  • Thanks a lot Angel, nice of you to add it to your favs!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • Thank you so much angel, nice of you to add it to your favs!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • Emjaysea
    Emjayseaabout 3 years ago

    Love this watercolour, Maree. Fabulous detail and background. Sadly, I’ve yet to see a cuckoo in the wild.

  • Thanks ever so much Michael, also for the fav! Another elusive one is the Diederik Cuckoo with it’s beautiful, haunting call and brilliant emerald green plumage, he’s next on my list for sketching! Do so hope you see your Cuckoo soon, it’s a thrilling experience!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • Magaret Meintjes
    Magaret Meintjesabout 3 years ago

    • Image per day 2011/11/01
  • peaky40
    peaky40about 3 years ago

    Stunning work Maree

  • Aaah, thank you so much for saying so Peaky, and lovely that you added it to your favs!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • Renee Blake
    Renee Blakeabout 3 years ago

    Beautiful work :)

  • Thanks ever so much Renee, appreciate that fav!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • TeresaB
    TeresaBabout 3 years ago

    November 4, 2011

  • Wow Teresa! This is great! Thank you for the feature, much appreciated!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • Mary Sedici
    Mary Sediciabout 3 years ago

    NOVEMBER 10th, 2011
    Your participation with works/votes it is greatly appreciated

  • This is fabulous Mary, thank you for the feature, much appreciated!

    – Maree Clarkson

  • Pam Humbargar
    Pam Humbargarabout 3 years ago

    Lovely watercolor…so light and happy:))

  • Ah, thanks a lot for your lovely comment Pam!

    – Maree Clarkson

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