Hi Jill and Ailsa, and interested others
A couple of thoughts/speculations on the meat-eating Koel:
Your message didn't note whether it was a male, female or perhaps one of this
year's crop of young. If it was a female, it might possibly be seeking protein
for a new set of eggs - at Christmas time there's probably enough time to lay
an egg in some host's nest, and have the young raised and fledged in time for a
northward migration in April.
More generally, perhaps Koels are less strictly frugivorous than popular wisdom
suggests (I note that your API book records insects in the diet). A comparable
instance is provided by the Figbird. Most literature indicates that Figbirds
are predominantly fruit-eaters but several recent publications by birders have
demonstrated that Figbirds in fact eat a large number of insects, using a range
of strategies to capture a diversity of insect species. There's even a record
of a Figbird taking a young blue-tongued skink. Koels, which are generally more
secretive and therefore harder to watch than Figbirds, may prove to be
similarly catholic in their diet.
Thirdly, there's an interesting 'nature vs nurture' situation with Koels and
Channel-billed Cuckoos. Though both are frugivores as adults, the hosts of the
young cuckoos are insectivores/generalists. Magpie-larks (and other host
species) probably spend all day stuffing insects down the throats of young
Koels, and God knows what young Channel-bills in eastern Queensland must get to
taste, thanks to their Torresian Crow hosts! Is it too much to expect that
young birds raised in such circumstances would then turn to fruit exclusively
once they leave home? A fascinating question and I'd love to hear from anyone
who's researched the topic!
I'd also encourage Ailsa to detail her observations in an article in 'Sunbird',
'ABW' or similar forum.
Jill Dening wrote:
> But once again, after Christmas, the Koel has switched to feeding from the
> meat tray. It behaves aggressively towards the kookaburras, raising its
> neck and head feathers in threat. I can't recall if Ailsa said it feeds
> exclusively on meat, or not.
> Ailsa is thinking that the Koel is possibly changing its diet at this
> point, in order to build up protein in preparation for the coming northward
> migration. I have no argument with this theory.
> What do others think? Has anyone observed Koels eating meat in the wild? I
> would welcome a discussion on this subject through birding-aus, and suggest
> that Ailsa, who does not subscribe to this list, would also like to receive
> copies of messages at her address :
> Jill Dening
> Sunshine Coast, Qld
> 26º 51' 152º 56'
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