Newsletter – 3-6-2010
White I was making a cup of coffee this morning and pondering what to choose as Bird of the Week, this Pheasant Coucal supplied the answer by posing on a small tree, having just had a drink in the pond below. Coucals, like other cuckoos, are shy birds so I photographed it through the window – first photo – before carefully opening the French door onto the verandah to try to get a clearer view. I got the door open all right, but it spotted me raising the camera and large lens and took off before I had managed to take more than a couple of shots – second photo.
Pheasant Coucals are splendid birds: large (to 70cm/28in in length), red-eyed with richly patterned short wings and a long tail. In breeding plumage, the head and body is blackish with shiny feather shafts and the bill is black. In non-breeding plumage the black, of both the plumage and the bill, fades to buff.
Their usual call is a wonderful “deep, hollow, descending, descending ‘coop-coop-coop-coop-coop’, like liquid glugging from bottle” to quote Pizzey and Knight. They also have a sharp alarm call that sounds coarse paper being torn suddenly. There are several territories near my place, mostly along the creek, so the sound of their ‘bottle’ call is very characteristic of summer and I realise how much I’ve missed it when they start calling in the spring.
The range of the Pheasant Coucal includes coastal north western, northern and eastern Australia from the Pilbara to the Sydney region. It is generally common, but less so at the edge of its range in central New South Wales. It also occurs in New Guinea and related species, such as the Greater Coucal, are found in the warmer parts of Asia and in Africa.
Unlike other cuckoos, Coucals build their own nest and were until recently placed in their own family (the Centropidae). Genetic studies have shown that they close affinities with other cuckoos, and it is now usual to treat them as a subfamily of the cuckoos (Centropodinae within Cuculidae).
The Pheasant Coucals fly very poorly. The usual strategy is to climb to the top of a tree and glide with a few wing-beats to the destination. Sadly, they lack traffic sense and are frequently casualties on highways. Here in North Queensland, they are called ‘pheasants’ in the same way Bush Stone-Curlews are called ‘curlews’.
Recent additions to the website:
Photos of Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk in flight
Diamond, Brown Cuckoo– and Bar-shouldered Doves .
Little Corellas in flight
Southern Cassowary and Emu and
Rainbow Lorikeet (including Orange-collared race)
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: email@example.com
Here is the sound of a Pheasant Coucal (duet from a pair in undergrowth) by Vicki Powys from xeno-canto:
What a neat bird. From the pictures, the bird seems sort of plain, but very beautiful. Since they are closely related to the Cuckoos, they are in the Cuculidae family, which is in Cuculiformes order.
and the owl, and the night-hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after its kind, (Leviticus 11:16 YLT)
See the Cuckoo page