Tag Archives: bird

Channel-billed Cuckoo

Scythrops novaehollandiae

Even though the Channel-billed Cuckoo only visits northern and eastern Australia from around August to March I’m surprised not to have taken note of it earlier. It’s a distinctive looking bird, quite large with a huge beak and red eyes. In flight it looks sleek and almost hawk like. The other birds don’t take a liking to it ( and for good reason! ) and can be seen chasing and harassing it.

Channel-billed Cuckoo sitting in a tree in the front yard. Wouldn’t want to get pecked by that!

As well as their distinctive appearance Channel-billed Cuckoos have an unmistakable screeching call. Commonly heard in the early morning and evening they sometimes go off in the middle of the night, I’ve been woken a few times.

Channel-billed Cuckoos are brood parasites which means they lay their eggs in the ready made nests of other birds. The Cuckoos don’t hang around and leave it up to the host parents to feed and raise their young along with their own chicks. Sadly for the host family the strength and aggressiveness of the Cuckoo means that the host young are out competed for food and most often do not survive. No wonder the local birds don’t take a liking to them!

They are large birds with a wingspan of up to a meter. You start to get an idea of their size when they spread their wings

I’d like to get a photo of one in flight, I’ll post an update if I do.

Sources and further info

Grey Goshawk

Grey Goshawks are a frequent visitor to the area, up until now I’ve not been able to identify or get a good photo of one. Last week I heard the sound of a screeching flock of cockatoos off in the distance, as they got closer the sound got louder. They were swooping and swerving making a huge racket, in front of them was a hawk! It looked like they were chasing it away! A few days later I spotted it sitting in a tree out the back and managed to get these photos.

Very lucky to spot this guy out the back. I don’t know if it’s male or female, the information I found suggests they looks the same although the female is much larger than the male
This Grey Goshawk was spotted out the back, it was looking around for something and didn’t stay still for long
After flying off in pursuit of something I though that was the last I would see of it, but I spotted it again through a gap in the trees in the distance

Grey Goshawks are a medium size bird of prey, local ones have a grey back and upper wings, with a white belly. They have large yellow talons and a yellow, black tipped hooked beak. They prey on mammals like rabbits, possums and bats, also reptiles and insects. Their most common prey is other birds, no wonder the cockies were chasing it away.

References and further reading

The Black Cockies are back

They’re back, and they still have an appetite for destruction! Every year about this time the black cockies visit for a day or two, tear up the Banksia trees in our yard then leave.

Black Cockie tearing up a Banksia
Black Cockie tearing up a Banksia

Sulphur Crested Cockies are here in abundance year round, Black Cockies only visit for a few days per year, sometimes I miss them altogether. Yellow tailed black cockatoos are larger than their sulphur crested cousins, they have a louder and more piercing shriek too. A few days before I saw the black cockies this year I heard a chilling shriek in the valley after dark, for a moment I thought it sounded like a person in distress, but I figured it was more animal like. After I saw the Cockies I now think that’s what it was.

Black Cockie in the Banksia tree
Black Cockie in the Banksia tree

This year the black cockies visited on July 23rd, a few weeks earlier than previous years.

Fan-tailed cuckoo

Cacomantis flabelliformis

After the big storms a few weeks ago we had another wet weekend. It didn’t stop us from getting outside though, the two boys agreed to brave the leeches for a walk down to the river to see the flood damage and see what birds we could spot.

The creeks were running high but still crossable, it was clear from the debris and flow patterns how high the water had been.

Bird wise it was pretty quiet, but near the river just past Murrumba waterfall a Fan-tailed cuckoo flew overhead from one tree to another. Yet again I couldn’t identify it until I got back and studied the photo, hopefully I’ll get it next time.

Fan-tailed cuckoo’s are a common bird found all down the east coast of Australia, south and all the way through to southern west Australia. They are also found on other nearby Pacific islands of New Caledonia, New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand.

They are a medium sized bird with a slate grey head, wings and back, it’s breast is a lighter grey, tail is horizontally striped with black and white. A clear identifier of the Fan-tailed cuckoo is the yellow ring around its eyes.

Fan-tailed cuckoo near Middle Harbour river – note the yellow eye ring, a good way to identify the bird.

Cuckoos have an interesting and brutal way of child rearing. The cuckoo mother lays it’s eggs in the nests of other species of birds. It ejects one of the existing eggs then leaves. The cuckoo eggs often hatch first and the chick then proceeds to push the other eggs out of the nest. The presumably unsuspecting host bird then raises the cuckoo chick as it’s own! What a bastard!

Notes and Sources