Gould's Bronze-Cuckoo

Subject: Gould's Bronze-Cuckoo
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Sun, 11 Oct 2009 14:31:12 +1000
Hi Steve,

In regard to Little and Gould's Bronze-Cuckoos, Little has white underparts without any rufous smudging on the breast. Gould's has varying amounts of rufous on the breast - from just a touch to quite rufous in odd birds. Breast of Little is always "clean", neat white - Gould's is not so "clean" and neat. Barring is slightly narrower in Little than in Gould's. Back and wings of Little are more green than the bronzy colour of Gould's (this is a good field character). Also Gould's has much more rufous in the tail than Little - obvious when the tail is spread, and probably best illustrated in the Slater guide. These differences are fairly obvious in the field but more obvious in the hand. A few years ago, I was looking at a tray of specimen's (Gould's) in the Qld museum - all specimens underparts up. There were 2 Little in it and you could pick them from metres away. It was almost like Grey Butcherbirds amongst a tray of Pied Butcherbirds!

In my area local here in NE Qld (Mt-Molloy-Mareeba), Gould's inhabits the riparian forest/rainforest lined creeks and gullies that run west from the ranges (GDR) (as well as the coastal strip east of the range). Here they parasitise Fairy Gerygone which inhabits the same areas and habitat - also Large-billed Gerygone though this species is rare along these mostly dry creeks. These streams run through open tropical woodland dominated by Eucalypt species. This drier open forest is occupied by Little which parasitises White-throated Gerygones. I have never seen either bronze-cuckoo in the others habitat.

On the coastal strip (Wet Tropics), Gould's is very common. I doubt if Little (breeding race minutillus) gets into to that area - it seems as though its range coincides with White-throated Gerygone mostly to the west of the GDR. Both seem to vacate all areas from about March and April and return about September - at least the majority of the population anyway. However, the southern race of Little (barnardi) (SE Qld-NE NSW) is also a migrant and we see the odd Little up here in NE Qld through the cooler months - even on the coast - which is probably that race. This helps to confuse things a bit.

I have seen the so-called hybrid (between russatus and minutillus) along the rainforest lined creeks which Gould's inhabits but have never seen it out in the open country which Little inhabits which makes one wonder if it is only an age-stage of Gould's.

I remember the late Mervyn Goddard saying some years ago that newly hatched young of Little had flesh-coloured skin whereas the newly hatched young of Gould's had black skin. That is an interesting and pretty strong indicator of the extent of difference between the two forms.

At this time of year my bet is that the bird you had at Cape Tribulation on the coast would be Gould's. They are very common there through the scrubby-rainforested areas and through the mangroves. Later in the season (up till about March) almost all Large-billed Gerygone's nests will be parasitised. The gerygones do seem to get a brood away before the cuckoos arrive.

Hope that helps,


"Steve Potter" wrote:

Hi Lloyd,

Thanks for your contribution on birding-Aus re the Gould's bronze Cuckoo,

I have attempt without success to find much info on the two "little"
I am interested in your findings around your comment "Each are fairly easily
identified in the field. In some areas, they occur side by side, in very
different habitats,"
What are these identifying features and what are their preferred habitat's?

Particularly as my brother and I saw briefly a "little" that we assumed to
be Gould's at Cape Tribulation last week.


Steve Potter


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