Brood parasitism and egg mimicry of Himalayan Cuckoo ( Cuculus saturatus
) on its host Blyth's Leaf Warbler ( Phylloscopus reguloides
) were studied in south-western China from April to July 2009. The cuckoo laid a white egg with fine brown markings on the blunt end. The eggs were conspicuously bigger than the host's own, with 2.06 g in mass and 1.91 cm3
in volume. Visual modeling showed that the cuckoo eggs, which from the human eye appeared to mimic the host eggs to a great extent, were completely different from the host eggs in both hue and chroma. The characters of the Himalayan Cuckoo nestling, reported for the first time, included two triangular and black patches on its gape, which appeared from four days old and became darker with age and growth. While this character also exists in nestlings of Oriental Cuckoo (C. optatus
), it has not been found for other Cuculus
species. Our results reveal cryptic aspects in the cuckoo-host egg color matching, which are not visible to the naked human eye, and indicate that high mimetic cuckoo eggs rejected by hosts, as determined by human observers in previous studies, might not be mimetic as birds see them.