Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus fostering a single nestling Cuckoo Cuculus canorus bring food to it at roughly the same rate as they do to an average-sized brood (three or four) of their own young. The food brought, mostly flies and beetles, is also similar. We conclude that the Cuckoo does not provide a supernormal stimulus. We show that Reed Warblers, given experimentally-enlarged broods of seven or eight, can substantially increase their feeding rate. This raises the question of why the young Cuckoo does not exploit this ‘spare’ feeding capacity of the Reed Warbler hosts. We offer three explanations', (i) that the increased begging necessary would attract predators, (ii) that the young Cuckoo is unable to grow faster, and (iii) that it would not be to the advantage of a young Cuckoo, dependent on its foster parents for about 5 weeks (cf. 3 weeks for Reed Warbler young), to provoke a feeding rate that the warblers could not sustain.