Channel-billed Cuckoo in town

There was an extraordinary whooping commotion in our poplar gum just on dusk yesterday. It sounded like Friarbirds on steroids or half a dozen Blue-winged Kookaburras on helium – a huge sound!

I ducked outside straight away to see what on earth was going on and spotted two big grey-brown birds high in the tree (and there may have been more hidden amongst the leaves). They were Channel-billed Cuckoos, Scythrops novaehollandiaeThe drizzle began again as I was looking for them and it was raining steadily by the time I gave up trying for a better shot but I managed to get a couple of useable photos in spite of the very poor light.

Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae
Channel-billed Cuckoo in the poplar gum
Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae
The heavy beak and red eye-ring are distinctive

This is only the second time I’ve seen them here, and the first was a really ridiculous sighting, so this one a bit special.

They are more common is open inland country like Hervey’s Range. Both Slater’s Field Guide and Neilson’s Birds of the Wet Tropics of Queensland note that they are seasonal migrants, resident in our region from about September to April, and often feed on wild figs. Slater’s says “usually in small very noisy groups” and Neilson calls them “raucous” – and I won’t disagree.

We already have other seasonal visitors in our garden, the monotonously-calling Koels and the baritone-cooing Torres Strait Pigeons, so it’s getting noisy!

Live update: the racket burst out again as I was writing this post this morning and I managed some rather better photos in spite of the continuing drizzle. There were five or six of them this time, split between our two tallest trees, the poplar gum and the paperbark.

Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae
Channel-billed Cuckoo, still wet but in better light

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