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Cuckoos at Wicken Fen, Snow, and Radiocarbon Dating

This podcast from the Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC) Planet Earth Online collection looks at the cunning tricks the cuckoo uses to get another bird to do the parenting, why researchers are studying snow in Sweden, and discovers an improved radiocarbon dating technique.

The cuckoo is a well-known cheat: it lays its eggs in other birds' nests, tricking other birds into raising a chick that doesn't even look like one of their own. It is a classic example of brood parasitism. Researchers have long known that cuckoos lay eggs that look exactly like their hosts', and when it hatches, the cuckoo chick sounds just like the host chick.

But now researchers have discovered yet another stage at which the cuckoo fools its reed warbler host. Sue Nelson goes to Wicken Fen near Cambridge to talk to cuckoo expert Nick Davies from the University of Cambridge to find out more.

In an audio diary, Mel Sandells from the National Centre for Earth Observation explains how and why she is studying snow in Sweden.

Finally, Sue Nelson goes to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit to find out exactly how radiocarbon dating works, and how the latest techniques work.

A transcript of the recording is provided to assist those who find text-based content more accessible than audio.

This podcast is dated 1 June 2011.

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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