Cuckoo coincidence

To: Canberra Birds <>
Subject: Cuckoo coincidence
From: Stephanie Haygarth <>
Date: Sun, 7 Feb 2016 00:50:28 +0000
Just after I read the recent wonderful discussion on cuckoos, I went outside and finally managed to locate the Horsfields bronze-cuckoo that's been calling here for a few days and infuriating us because we couldn't find it (we're holidaying in northern Tasmania). It was a juvenile sitting on a gate at the bottom of the garden, and it was making what I think of as begging actions - leaning forward, lowering its body and waggling its wings a little - between calls. I couldn't see a bird that these actions might have been aimed at.

We followed the bird into the paddock behind the house, where it sat on a wire fence, calling, and then we saw an adult Horsfields land next to it. The juvenile flew to the ground, caught a caterpillar, then offered it to the adult, which took it, then offered it back. The juvenile took the grub again and ate it, after whacking it a few times on the fence. Sparrows and Goldfinches both showed close attention while this was going on, landing close by on the fence, looking closely, then flying off again.

Needless to say, our enthusiastic attempts to photograph this remarkably coincidental interaction were inadequate. But we're here for another week so we may be lucky next time!
Steph H and Matt H

On 6 Feb 2016, at 9:03 PM, Julian Robinson <> wrote:

There you go then!  So the juvenile was actually being fed by, presumably, its … um … birth parent?  Great observation.





From: shorty
Sent: Saturday, 6 February 2016 8:48 PM
To: Julian Robinson
Cc: Martin Butterfield; COG List
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Duetting Cuckoos


I took this pic at Campbell Park on October 17, 2015.



On Sat, Feb 6, 2016 at 8:15 PM, Julian Robinson <> wrote:

I wrote here my theory a couple of years ago, that cuckoos maintain a bond with their young and that they do re-unite with their young for migration.  This was after observing adult and juvenile Pallids interacting closely in the time between nesting and migration.   I may have misinterpreted when I mentioned this to Naomi Langmore, but I believe she said this is likely true.  She certainly said that adults hang around ‘their’ nests and can be heard calling regularly during the breeding period.





From: Martin Butterfield [
Sent: Saturday, 6 February 2016 2:38 PM
To: COG List
Subject: [canberrabirds] Duetting Cuckoos


A few minutes ago I heard an unusual call in our garden.  I'd describe it best as a "weee-you", quite melodious in tone with a slightly rising inflection on the you.  After a little time searching I traced the call to an juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo, and I saw it make the call.  However a few seconds later I heard the call again from a different direction, without the juveniles bill opening.  Assuming it wasn't a very smart bit of ventriloquism I moved my search to the alternate area and found an adult Fan-tailed Cuckoo.


This somewhat surprised me as I wouldn't have expected the Masters of Delegated Brooding to display family ties and would have thought such calling back and forth to be contact prior to breeding, which is contra-indciated by:

  • the time of year; and 
  • the age of the young bird.

So was the adult investing its time in a bit of cradle-snatching or was this two birds teaming up for migration?  Os something else?



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