Tag Archives: cuckoo

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

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