Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cuckoo and biodiversity: Testing the correlation between species occurrence and bird species richness in Europe

Volume 190, October 2015, Pages 123–132
  • a Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Department of Applied Geoinformatics and Spatial Planning, Kamýcká 129, 165 00 Prague 6, Czech Republic
  • b Centre de Recherches sur la Biologie des Populations d’Oiseaux, UMR 7204 Centre d’Ecologie et des Sciences de la Conservation, CP 51, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 55 rue Buffon, F-75005 Paris, France
  • c Institute for Environmental Studies, Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Science, Benatska 2, 128 01 Praha 2, Czech Republic
  • d Laboratory of Ecosystem and Biodiversity Management, Department of Agriculture, Crop Production and Rural Environment, University of Thessaly, Fytokou str., N. Ionia, 38446 Volos, Greece
  • e Centro Naturalistico Sammarinese, via Valdes De Carli 21, 47893 Borgo Maggiore, San Marino
  • f Department of Zoology and Landscaping, University of Technology and Life Sciences, 85-225 Bydgoszcz, Poland
  • g INRA, UMR 1048 SADAPT, F-75231 Paris, France
  • h AgroParisTech, UMR 1048 SADAPT, F-75231 Paris, France
  • i Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Zürcherstrasse 111, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • j Institute of Zoology, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71 C, PL-60-625 Poznań, Poland


We tested the relationship between European cuckoo occurrence and bird diversity.
Cuckoos were mainly distributed at sites with greater bird species richness (BSR).
The predictive power of models ranged from 0.68 to 0.86 on a multi-spatial scale.
Cuckoo occurrence was a better surrogate of BSR than habitat heterogeneity.
The proposed framework offers a cost-effective conservation planning approach.


The use of biodiversity surrogates is an increasingly popular tool, because it provides strong results while reducing the costs of conservation studies. Here, we hypothesize that cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) occurrence may correlate with high bird species richness based on the assumption that their presence should mirror the richness of their potential avian hosts and the overall bird community. Specifically, we assessed the association between species occurrence and taxonomic diversity patterns on a multi-spatial scale using datasets from seven European countries. Our results show that high bird species richness is a good proxy for cuckoo occurrence, and the best results were based on data from point counts. The species was almost absent at sites with low species richness, suggesting that the presence of cuckoo is an appropriate surrogate of bird biodiversity. The accuracy of the models ranged from 0.68–0.71 (for large spatial scale) to 0.86 (for local spatial scale) and provided valuable indications of bird taxonomic diversity distribution on all different types of environments monitored in each country. These associations are possibly related to co-evolutionary relationships with host species (correlated with overall species richness) and the cuckoo’s preference for sites that are attractive to many other bird species, due to high habitat diversity or abundant food resources. Our findings highlight how conservation planners can use cuckoo occurrence as a surrogate to maximize efficiency when studying bird species richness patterns. These results also demonstrate the advantages of using the cuckoo rather than top predators as a potential surrogacy tool for citizen scientist programs.


  • Cuculus canorus;
  • Bird species richness;
  • Spatial pattern;
  • Biodiversity;
  • Predictivity;
  • Citizen programs
Corresponding author. Tel.: +420 393282097285.