A fuzzy PID controller tuned by Cuckoo search (CS) algorithm is proposed to control a highly nonlinear 3 DOF robotic manipulator for trajectory tracking. For a fair comparison between the traditional PID and fractional order PID (FOPID) controllers, the tuning of the parameters for the controllers is done using CS. This optimization algorithm uses an optimal tuning in time domain by minimizing the performance criterion, i.e. the sum of integral of multiplication of time with absolute error (ITAE) for each joint. The robustness testing of the tuned controllers for external disturbance and different trajectory is also investigated. Finally, the simulation results reveal that the proposed fuzzy PID controller can not only provide excellent tracking performance in Cartesian and joint space, but also enhances the robustness of the system for external disturbance and different trajectory.