Coucal pheasant

long-tailed dark bird in mango tree
Pheasant Coucal, Centropus phasianinus

Another bird story? What’s happened to the insects? Well, it still hasn’t rained, so birds are coming to town for the water but insects are not particularly plentiful. They will be back, however, in reality and on Green Path.

We spotted this visitor in our garden yesterday morning, on the ground near the swimming pool and then in the mango tree where I managed a couple of photos. We know the species quite well, but not in town: they are “common residents in long grass in woodland,” as Slater’s Field Guide says, and we see them far more often at Hervey’s Range or the Town Common.

We usually call them “Coucal Pheasant” but they are officially “Pheasant Coucal”, coucals being a family (Centropidae) closely related to cuckoos (Cuculidae).* They don’t share the cuckoos’ habit of getting other birds to care for their young, and they are much bigger than most cuckoos at 60-80cm (the Channel-billed Cuckoo comes close but the next best is the Koel at 39-46cm). Their range is very similar to that of the Figbird, i.e. around the northern coast from Sydney to the Kimberley, but extending further inland.

The one in my photo has the black breeding plumage on head and body seen in summer; in the cooler part of the year the head and body are reddish brown.

* Wikipedia: Coucal still lists them as a sub-family of cuckoos but is out of date, going by Birdway.

2 thoughts on “Coucal pheasant”

  1. You don’t mention their call – to me one of the best things about the PC. Described in one of the bird books as being like wine poured from a bottle their ‘glug, glug, glug, glug’ is a familiar sound out here. Great blog, by the way.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.