Cuckoo coincidence

To: Jack & Andrea Holland <>, Canberra Birds <>
Subject: Cuckoo coincidence
From: Virginia Abernathy <>
Date: Sun, 7 Feb 2016 07:00:53 +0000

Hi Jack (and others),

I'm not an expert at identifying bronze-cuckoos, but I think it is much more likely the picture captured a male feeding a female. This is a very common behavior among several cuckoo species. I also don't think it is a juvenile/fledgling because every time I've ever seen an adult with food approach a fledgling, it has its mouth wide open to receive the food. Females do not behave this way when a male is about to feed them. They simply take the food and eat it. I also am wondering if this was this case with the observation made by Stephanie Haygarth. Perhaps it was a young female cuckoo being fed by a male? But I really doubt a parent was feeding its fledgling (especially since the 'begging' bird was the one that caught the food, unless I misunderstood?). And, without genetic testing there is no way to say if they are related or not.

To my knowledge there is no scientific study supporting the claim that cuckoo adults feed their own fledglings or young, though there is evidence that another brood parasite in North America, the Brown-headed Cowbird, will sometimes hang out with their own offspring once they are independent, which is pretty cool.

Just my thoughts on the discussion.


From: Jack & Andrea Holland <>
Sent: 07 February 2016 15:27
To: Canberra Birds
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Cuckoo coincidence
I’ve been following this discussion with interest as I have published my observations of adult Eastern Koel activity (association and possible interaction) around Koel fledglings for the past two seasons in CBN 39(2) 147-151 (2014) and CBN 40(2) 147-161 (2015).  Following the second paper Christine D has published an even more remarkable set of observations of adult and young Koels together in the fig trees of her garden [CBN 40(2) 162-172 (2015).
This year Koel activity in my local patch was very quiet for the first 3 weeks of 2016, when suddenly at least 5 adults moved into the area on the afternoon of 20 January and were very conspicuous by their calling and also much easier to locate than is often the case.  On 27 January I found my first Koel fledgling for this season where all this activity was first noticed and was centred, co-incidentally also within about 10 m from where I first found a fledgling last year. 
Jack Holland
PS  I would appreciate confirmation from some-one more expert on cuckoos than I am as to whether the intended recipient bird in Shorty’s photo is a juvenile or a less-barred adult Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo.  The bird offering the food seems quite a bit more barred than is often the case, whereas juvenile birds often have very little if any barring.
Sent: Sunday, February 07, 2016 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Cuckoo coincidence
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

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





From: shorty [m("","rawshorty");">]
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 <m("","julian.robinson");" target="_blank">> 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 [mailto:m("","martinflab");" target="_blank">]
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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