I was called out by a Sydney friend a few weeks ago to a bird which had not
long left the nest and which was being fed by a Red Wattlebird. He thought
it was a Long Tailed Cuckoo (which got me moving fairly quickly) and some of
the markings looked a lot more like a juvenile LTC than any of the
available field guides show for a young Common Koel.
> From: Atzeni, Michael[SMTP:
> Sent: Friday, 12 February 1999 12:59
> To: 'Birding-Aus'
> Subject: birding-aus Juvenile Koel Identification Woes
> Hands up, those who've seen a juvenile Common Koel, say 1-2 weeks off
> fledgeling age, and managed to reconcile what they saw with what the usual
> field guides and photo references depict or describe, or as I found out,
> fail to.
> If you've got the Slater's Field Guide to Australian Birds, you're in with
> chance. Otherwise, I reckon you had to rely on pure deduction, or have
> wonderful field guide that the majority don't have.
> I saw such a juvenile for the first time on Tuesday. It was brought into
> local vet, Bob Doneley, who invited me down to identify it. I knew from
> previous experience that if Bob didn't know what it was, it MUST be
> something odd. When he produced the bird, I was quite surprised I
> offer a positive ID immediately.
> I had no joy using Reader's Digest, nor the Pizzey and Knight guide I'd
> taken along, but reckoned it had to be a young Koel by its size, head and
> bill shape, delicate barring on the underparts, and the fact that it had
> fallen out of a "mud and stick nest" during the recent heavy rains. My
> hunch was confirmed when I returned home and discussed it with a friend,
> then I found Slater's picture of a juvenile (pg185, 1986 edition).
> What the other references made no mention of was the striking black and
> cinnamon barring on the back, wings and tail, giving it a beautiful,
> distinctive plumage, like nothing I had seen before. Also, unlike
> depiction of an older juvenile, this bird, although apparently close to
> fledging, lacked the dark facial markings, was short-tailed and had a much
> paler buff head and nape, almost cream. Is this what others have found?
> Are there any published photographs of this first phase plumage of the
> And if so, where? According to Slater, young Koels moult into the
> female-like plumage, as described in other guides, after 2-3 months.
> I'm perplexed as to why such a distinctive plumage phase for a relatively
> large and well-known bird fails to get a mention, let alone a picture in
> most field guides, particularly the latest ones. Perhaps, it has already
> been noted for the next edition ...
> Are there other examples where the juvenile plumage(s) warrants a picture,
> or at least a far better description, in future Australian field guides?
> A couple of points raised here which I hope generate some comment.
> Michael Atzeni, Toowoomba
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