young eastern koel

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Hearing what I thought was a distressed chirping two days ago I was drawn outside to find this large juvenile Eastern Koel seeking shelter in the inner foliage of a Banksia tree. It looked like it was being dive-bombed by Honeyeaters and they appeared to be aiming at the chick’s face while it squawked back in terror. Apart from the chirping which is a universal young bird trait, its colour scheme of barred and spotted brown body and black line through the eye identified it as a juvenile Eastern Koel under 3 months (when it changes into adult plumage). While it was a good size its chest feathers still have the fluffy look of a young bird.

Eastern Koel chick seeks shelter in the branches of a Banksia
Eastern Koel chick seeks shelter in the branches of a Banksia

The Eastern Koel is a long-tailed cuckoo and the adult male is black and the female black/brown, fully grown they sit between 39cm-46cm. As adults they make a very loud ‘kook-kook-kook’ sound and I listened hopefully for the parents in the hope they were out searching for their chick. Eventually it flew off deeper into the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve, but when I awoke the next day it was back cheeping in the same tree.

The young Koel's fear is evident in its posture, hunkered down between attacks from Honeyeaters
The young Koel’s fear is evident in its posture, hunkered down between attacks from Honeyeaters

I initially believed that the Honeyeaters were being aggressive because I had read that the Eastern Koel commandeers their nest and I assumed the Honeyeaters must have evicted it. However, like the Channel-billed Cuckoo, it seems Eastern Koel’s lay their egg/s in the nest of host families alongside the hosts eggs. When the cuckoo chick hatches it pushes the rightful eggs and chicks out, becoming the sole recipient of the food.

At some point the chick, now much larger then the adopted parents, sets off out into the world. But the foray is only a transition as it demands that the parents still feed it. Hence the incessant cheeping I can hear. The chick, who is now four times (at least) the size of its ‘parents’ has them foraging for food. My sympathy now lies with the over worked Honeyeaters who are feeding the bird that destroyed their own young. I wonder at what point they will say it is enough.

Acknowledgement: The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, 2nd ed.

6 thoughts on “young eastern koel

    Robyn McAulley said:
    December 9, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    I am a wildlife carer and have a young koel in care. I’m not sure how to get it to eat. Any suggestions?

      margosnotebook responded:
      February 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Robyn, I’m sorry I was not ‘here’ as on WordPress to answer your query, unfortunately I know little about the practicalities of caring for wild birds. I do hope you accessed the help you needed.

    kiwiskan said:
    March 2, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    hope he will be ok

      margosnotebook responded:
      March 4, 2014 at 7:27 am

      Yes the chick is good … albeit loud and incessant. Story has been amended after other facts came to light!

    cindy knoke said:
    March 2, 2014 at 8:28 am

    ahhhh, beautiful…..i hope he’s okay~

      margosnotebook responded:
      March 4, 2014 at 7:26 am

      The chick is still fine .. in fact I can hear it chirping right now. After further research I amended the story as in fact the Honeyeaters inadvertently adopted it and are in fact trying to feed it not attack it. Good news for the chick.

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