Oliver G Pike: Films - The Cuckoo

Oliver G Pike

Films - The Home Wrecker, 1929 (silent, b&w, approx. 14 min)

Ornithologist Edgar Chance was the driving force behind a famous film called The Cuckoo's Secret.  Chance believed that the cuckoo laid its egg straight into the nest of its host, whereas others still believed that the cuckoo carried its own egg in its beak to place it into the host's nest.

Chance had been studying cuckoos in Worcestershire for several consecutive years starting in 1918. On 14th May 1921 E Hawkins started filming the cuckoos.  The film was shown later that year and by early 1922 was doing the rounds.  This film (available on the BFI Secrets of Nature DVD) was good, but did not totally convince the sceptics over the cuckoo's egg-laying behaviour. Filming of The Cuckoo's Secret is often attributed to Oliver Pike, but this is incorrect.

Oliver Pike became involved with Edgar Chance's work the following year, in 1922.  He used a high-speed Debrie camera to take films of the same cuckoos.  The resulting slow-motion footage was much more convincing, showing clearly that the cuckoo laid its egg in the normal fashion and did not take it to the nest in her beak.  However, apart perhaps from private showings, it appears that this footage was not released until 1929 by British Instructional Films in The Home Wrecker, in which the photography is jointly credited to Oliver Pike and E Hawkins.

How the Cuckoo lays its Egg - slideshow from Oliver Pike's photos

The slideshow here use photographs taken by Oliver Pike in 1922. These were taken by him using his cine camera and used only in his lectures until 1958.

The film entitled "The Home Wrecker" is available from the British Pathé website store, but can be viewed in preview mode for free. The link is The Home Wrecker. It dates from 1929 (not as stated) and contains some of Hawkins' original footage from The Cuckoo's Secret plus additional material filmed by Oliver Pike, including two slow-motion sequences (approx. 14 min).