Pallid Cuckoos

To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Subject: Pallid Cuckoos
From: Martin Butterfield <>
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:34:53 +0000

Having just encountered 6 Pallid Cuckoos (3 pairs, each doing "chasey round the houses" display flights) on our morning pooch walk I certainly agree that there are a lot of pallid Cuckoos around this year.  However our area is not well endowed with caterpillars this year as we are a tad short of foliage for them to feed on.


On 17 October 2017 at 10:14, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:

There are certainly more of these around this season.  I attribute this to availability of caterpillars here (or scarcity of them elsewhere).  So there are good opportunities to see and photograph them.


HANZAB says ‘sexes differ markedly’.  How? Males are grey, females more rufous. The distinction has been confused by references to ‘morphs’.  F has a light and dark rufous morph; M has a light and dark grey  morph.  HANZAB:  ‘unlikely that males have a rufous morph’.  The dark to light spectra can be continuous.  Both sexes have that white spot on the nape, visibility variable.


As to voice, some field guides say only male gives the scale call, but HANZAB regards that as unproven.


The HANZAB vol was 1999, so might have been overtaken by later reporting.


This brings us to the Australian Bird Guide, co-authored by Danny Rogers who wrote the HANZAB plumage account.  The ABG adheres to the above gender colour differences, but draws attention to darkness of female:  ‘(female) light-rufous morph similar to darkest (male)’.


The ABG is not definite on gender differences in voice, but says ‘a series of throaty whistles repeatedly persistently by male in breeding territory’.


So if you find a rufous PC giving out that repetitive call, it will be worth making a careful note of it  - perhaps reporting with a line or 2 in Canberra Bird Notes.  Does the F give that call, or is there a male rufous morph?

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