An unexpected visitor

I was in the garden with my camera yesterday morning, on the way to taking a photo of a beautifully flowering wattle tree, when I heard screeching, a flutter of wings and a thump on the wall of the house just above me. I turned quickly enough to see a big grey bird sliding down the wall – exactly as cartoon characters slide down a wall after running into one at top speed! – and get a vague impression of another, slightly smaller, bird flying off unharmed.

The grey bird landed in the garden bed and lay there with outspread wings trembling. When, after a little time, I moved towards it, it dragged itself across the garden onto the front of the concrete under the house (a high-set Queenslander, remember?) and stood there looking totally dishevelled and confused:

Channel-billed Cuckoo
Not at its best.

From there it flap-hopped its way to a nearby bottlebrush and gradually up to the top of the tree, then it managed a slightly longer hop into the thick foliage of the poinciana where we lost sight of it.

cuckoo in tree
Nearing the top of the bottlebrush.

Kindly local experts identified it for me as an adult Channel-billed Cuckoo, Scythrops novaehollandiae (and definitely not a juvenile, by the way, because the red around the eye doesn’t develop until adulthood). Slater’s Field Guide notes that it is ‘often chased by crows’ (to which we must add ‘and other birds’), but this one has clearly been systematically persecuted: its main wing feathers are looking very ragged, and it ought to have long tail-feathers but they are completely gone. This is what it should look like (thanks for another great pic, Ian!) and Slater’s confirms that it is actually a bit bigger than a magpie or crow.

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