To: Robin Hide <>, Michael Lenz <>
Subject: Juvenile.Koel
From: John Harris <>
Date: Sun, 19 Jan 2020 05:13:44 +0000

I suspect this may be due to the drought and the absence of other native foods for wattlebirds. Birds do quite remarkably modify diet in emergencies.





From: Robin Hide <>
Date: Sunday, 19 January 2020 at 4:11 pm
To: Michael Lenz <>, John Harris <>
Cc: "" <>, chatline <>
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Juvenile.Koel


All through the last few days Red Wattlebirds have been eating the plums on our two plum trees.

Much more than previous years.




From: Michael Lenz [
Sent: Sunday, 19 January 2020 3:50 PM
To: John Harris
Cc: ; chatline
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Juvenile.Koel


Have others observed before what John Harris has seen, that Red Wattlebird collect fruit to feed a young Koel? Is fruit among the usual food items of a Red Wattlebird?


For me that was the most interesting bit from John's account.


Michael Lenz


On Sun, 19 Jan 2020 at 15:40, John Harris <> wrote:

Thank you  Jack, Geoff, Philip and all who responded with interesting information about Koel behaviour. It was all still happening here this morning but all is quiet just now as I write in the heat of the day. Let me summarise:

  1. A Juvenile Koel was being fed by Wattlebirds, taking plums from my tree and taking the food to the Koel on a nearby branch.
  2. An adult male Koel was staying nearby, taking an interest in it all. The word ‘waiting’ was used, waiting for the young one to mature. While it is obvious that a Koel should recognise another Koel, young or not, what is he waiting for? Does he think this is a young female? How early can they mate?
  3. Magpie-larks were harassing the juvenile Koel although unsuccessfully. It stayed relatively protected by foliage and occasionally moved position. Magpie-larks are said to be potential hosts for Koel eggs so perhaps they have evolved a tendency to attack Koels but then, I have seen magpie-larks attack almost anything, such as a pelican near here. Perhaps Magpie-larks attack most thigs larger than themselves.
  4. The small birds were probably just disturbed and voicing their fright or annoyance. Silver-eyes are in the plums in large numbers and probably spooked by the larger birds. Same applies to the Red-browed Finches in the plum trees waiting for me to fill their seed bowl. Other small birds also use the plum trees as their hiding place to dart into the bird bath in the shade of those trees.
  5. Currawongs are attracted to bird commotion as I have noticed before. They also use the bird bath but I have seen them investigating noise before, such as a snake taking a fledgeling Blackbird last year. Noise may indicate to them an opportunity to predate, even be a disclosure of a hidden nest site.


Anyway, it was all interesting and adds a bit of theatre to my day.




John Harris

Rev Dr John Harris,

36 Kangaroo Close,

Nicholls, ACT 2913


P: 61-(0)2-62418472





From: "" <m("","jandaholland");" target="_blank">>
Date: Sunday, 19 January 2020 at 8:15 am
To: John Harris <>
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Juvenile.Koel


Thanks John, yes, some very important observations.


There are documented occasions of Koel fledglings both being fed plums by RWBs, and when they get a bit older, eating plums etc themselves.


The Magpie-lark is a potential but as yet unconfirmed host in the ACT, again there is documented evidence of their interactions with Koels.




Jack Holland


From: John Harris <>
Sent: Saturday, 18 January 2020 7:44 PM
To: ; 'chatline' <m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">>
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Juvenile.Koel


Thanks Jack, You are right of course that an adult Koel is a parasite would not be likely to feed a chick but it was hanging around and taking some kind of interest and I wondered if it was.

You are doubly right as, since I posted the information earlier, I have twice seen a Wattlebird feed the Koel chick. It and other Wattlebirds are getting fruit from the plum tree. It looked like the Wattlebird was giving the Koel chick a large piece of plum, not something regurgitated.

There is a lot of curiosity from other birds. Even Currawongs seem to be following the action. Mudlarks were trying to drive the Koel away but the mudlarks also attacked the wattlebirds, perhaps by association. The adult Koel is still looking on. The Koel chick may fly to a more distant tree but it soon comes back to the trees closest to the plums.





From: "" <m("","jandaholland");" target="_blank">>
Date: Saturday, 18 January 2020 at 5:43 pm
To: John Harris <>, chatline <m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">>
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Juvenile.Koel


John, thank you for this interesting posting.


I may be misinterpreting your message, but it is most unlikely that the male Koel would be feeding the fledgling since the species is a brood parasite (it’s a cuckoo).  It’s most likely that the Red Wattlebird you have seen around is the host, as it has been for all but a couple of the 300+ fledglings in the ACT that I’m aware of.


You have, however, made a very important observation of an adult male associating/interacting with a fledgling, something for which there is now quite a bit of evidence as included in my summaries of the past seasons written up in CBN (see for example ).  There are also examples of other birds interacting with fledglings, including the Pied Currawong.




Jack Holland


From: John Harris <>
Sent: Saturday, 18 January 2020 5:02 PM
To: chatline <>
Subject: [canberrabirds] Juvenile.Koel


A juvenile koel has been hanging around my backyard and nearby trees for the past three days. It gives away its location by its constant cheep – cheep -cheeping. I have seen a male, presumably the parent, nearby and in my heavily-laden plum trees which I take to be the reason they hang about here. I have seen this male on the branch beside the juvenile although I have not actually seen him feeding it. I presume he does.

Their presence creates great interest among other birds, red wattle birds, etc. Even the currawongs are interested for some reason.





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