The bible in respect to Cuckoo hosts is the
publication "Cuckoo Hosts in Australia" by M.G.& L.C. Booker, Australian
Zoological Reviews, No 2 1989 RZS of NSW.
Mr Booker says that there are
21 species recorded as feeding juvenile Koels but only six species did he
identify as biological hosts, ie their eggs have been laid in the nest of six
species viz the four Australian Friarbirds, the Figbird and the
Magpie-lark. He points out that the Red Wattlebird is recorded as the
usual host in Sydney but he found no egg record! However, reports of Red
Wattlebirds feeding Koel Cuckoos did not appear in the literature until 1978, so
that at the time of this publication there was no record of a Koel Cuckoo egg in
a Red Wattlebird nest. The fact that there are fewer egg collectors these days
is not a benefit in this case.
However as both a Sydney and now
Central Coast resident, while I have never seen a Koel Cuckoo egg in a Red
Wattlebird nest, I certainly seen many small baby Koel Cuckoos in RWB nests and
have watched them being fed, and later on, have watched the Koel parents
feeding them after they leave the nest, along with the RWB parents!
So it is obvious that the main host
for Koel Cuckoos in the Newcastle/Central Coast/Blue
Mountains/Sydney/Illawarra/South Coast area is the Red
Wattlebird and that this is a recent
phenonema. More recently Little Wattlebirds have been proved to be a Koel Cuckoo
Since 1993-2000, in the NSW Annual
Bird Reports, I have attempted to qualify the recorded hosts of the Koel Cuckoos
and the results are as follows; Red Wattlebirds 22, Little Wattlebird 5, Noisy
Friarbird 3, Blue-faced Honeyeater 2 and Noisy Miner 1. The first
observation of a juvenile Koel fledging from a Little Wattlebird's nest was in
1999. In northern NSW Figbirds, Magpielarks and Noisy Friarbirds are known to be
the usual hosts but this is not borne out by the records available to me.
However, Regional Bird Reports, which is where one finds more information about
nesting Koels, are produced for mid Central and South Coast NSW, whereas there
are no annual regional reports as yet for north-eastern NSW! The fact that
Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds also figure in my
list probably indicates changing breeding patterns for those species as
well as the Koel. That Olive-backed Oriole, Magpie-lark & Little Friarbirds
do not figure in my summary is also of interest.
As to how many eggs are laid in a season, it is not
known for any Australian cuckoo species although the European Cuckoo is
considered to lay from 10-12 eggs!
In addition to the above species known to host the
egg, HANZAB also mentions Spangled Drongo, Grey-shrike Thrush, Black-faced
Cuckoo-shrike & Victoria's Riflebird (note no mention of Little
Wattlebird!). Species known to feed the young in addition to those mentioned are
Yellow-throated Miner, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, Leaden Flycatcher & Dusky
Woodswallow (note no mention of Noisy Miner!).
There is still alot to learn about Australian
cuckoos and their hosts.