Ian’s Bird of the Week – Channel-billed Cuckoo ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 1-21-13
Last week, sorry fortnight, we had the Little Bronze-Cuckoo, the smallest Australian Cuckoo. Here is the Channel-billed Cuckoo, the largest parasitic cuckoo in Australia, and the world for that matter, with a length to 65cm/26in and a weight exceeding 900g/2lbs. (Coucals, such as the Pheasant Coucal , to 75cm, are larger and are now included in the Cuckoo family, but are not parasitic.)
The bird in the first photo is an adult, distinguishable by the grey back (no buff patches) and the red eye and facial skin. The genus name Scythrops means ‘angry eye’ in Greek. The second photo shows a juvenile and you can see the buff patches on the wing, head and throat, though the grey facial skin looks as if it is beginning to acquire the red colour of the adult. This photo was taken in April when the birds would about to migrate to New Guinea.
Channel-billed Cuckoos lay their large eggs in the nests of Currawongs, Crows, Ravens, Magpies and even Sparrowhawks. The third photo, which appeared as the bird of the week in 2005, shows a very demanding chick with a very nerve-wracked looking foster parent Pied Currawong in the Sydney Metropolitan Area. The adult Cuckoos may break the eggs of the host bird but the chicks do not usually evict the eggs or chicks. Instead they out-compete them for food.
Channel-bills are mainly migratory, though some are though to remain in the Northern Territory throughout the winter. The juvenile in the fourth photo was being fed by Torresian Crow foster parents in the Top End in early September, so it would have hatched in July.
Typically of Cuckoos, Channel-bills are quite shy and usually remain hidden in foliage but their loud trumpeting calls give them away. They do fly in the open, particular before dusk and look very striking – their long tails and long pointed wings look rather raptor-like, though the large bill doesn’t, and they are often likened to flying crosses.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
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And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind, (Deuteronomy 14:15 KJV)
The Cuckoos are in the Cucuilidae Family and are also one of the Birds of the Bible, listed in the Unclean Birds.