Jayen watched in dismay as Crows relentlessly attacked a juvenile bird in a tree on his Myocum property. When it finally came to the ground on New Year’s day the young bird was exhausted as Jayen gently scooped it up with a towel and called Wires. Thinking it was a hawk because of its big beak, Jayen was surprised to learn it was in fact a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo.
Standing at 58-65cm, the Channel-billed Cuckoo is the largest parasitic cuckoo in the world, it is a migratory bird and while in Australia live in mainly tall open forest areas, especially along watercourses and rainforest streams where fig trees abound, and where host species such as the Collared Sparrowhawk, White-winged Chough, Magpie-lark, Magpie, Pied Currawong, Australian Raven or Torresian Crow occur. Unlike many other cuckoos, when the chicks hatch they do not evict the host’s young or eggs from the nest, they simply grow faster than the hosts chicks, demanding all the food.
They breed annually in Northern to Eastern Australia between August and October. The birds then leave Australia in February – March flying the thousands of kilometres back to Papua New Guinea.
Although they are not nocturnal birds (night birds) in the strict sense, Channel-billed Cuckoos are notorious for calling all night long during the breeding season. The call of the Channel-billed Cuckoo, a loud ‘kawk’ followed by a more rapid, and weaker ‘awk-awk-awk…’, is as distinctive as the bird’s appearance.
This big bird was dehydrated and obviously exhausted , returning it to where it had been found once recovered would not be possible as the Crows were waiting patiently.
It is now being encouraged to forage and self-feed, and soon it will be moved into a large aviary in order to build flight strength.
Channel-billed Cuckoo’s are hard wired to migrate and this beautiful bird will need to be in peak condition upon release to make the long flight north.
Thank you Jayen for calling WIRES
Pictures by Deborah Pearce