Red Wattle bird feeding Koel in Fisher

To: 'merarth' <>, "" <>
Subject: Red Wattle bird feeding Koel in Fisher
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 2021 11:25:31 +0000

Hi Merath,


A couple comments. About Surely they know it's not the same species?. Well maybe. Or even likely they do but are over stimulated by the young cuckoo. We can’t know what they know. Like most foster species, they certainly know that adult Koels are a danger and a whole lot of parasitised species have defences against parasitism, just as the parasites have ways to bypass these defences. It is an ongoing arms race through evolutionary history. The baby cuckoo though removes the rightful chicks and presents the foster parents with a super chick with a big mouth and the foster parents are super stimulated to feed it. It comes under the “super-normal stimulus” label in behavioural terminology. If they think anything, it could be something like - wow I have a really impressive baby.


About I'm concerned about this koel expansion., will it impact red wattlebird population ? Well maybe. Perhaps it is already. By reducing breeding, logic says it must have but maybe not yet enough to make a big difference. Time will tell. Though the RW is certainly common here.  No parasite can benefit if it eliminates its host, so even if the specialisation continues, it should reach a stable point at some time when there are still sufficient available hosts. We have a very strange thing happening in Canberra and that is that our Koels (that migrate) here have become (almost ?) totally dependent on that one species. Most of the references tell that Koels have historically used many species (most that also occur here) and the Red Wattlebirds isn’t even especially high on the list elsewhere. So why such a restricted behaviour here? Maybe because it is so recent.


Years ago when we had a Pallid Cuckoo chick in a Regent Honeyeater nest here, I had similar concerns, what if the cuckoo learns to use that species? But I believe that was the only such occurrence ever noted.  




From: Canberrabirds [ On Behalf Of merarth
Sent: Sunday, 28 February, 2021 8:34 PM
Subject: [Canberrabirds] Red Wattle bird feeding Koel in Fisher



I witnessed this today in Fisher. I have some footage of the koel and rhe wattlebirds, but probably not of the feeding. (Mobile phone photos and video) They left the constantly squawking big chick to squawk for half an hour or so and didn't seem to want to feed as they knew I was there. 


 Very interesting to observe. I stood in a most awkward position for at least half an hour. Its voice was breaking a little, 2 more mature chirps over that time. 


The feeding wattle bird came really close to me, right above my head looking at me. .


During the long standing session, I could hear the wattle bird in the tree and it was also making soft half wattlebird calls as if beckoning it away to a tall tree behind. There was another wattle bird and eventually came back with 2 or 3 more wattle birds and managed to get the koel to move to the tree behind where they could feed it. 


I'm pretty sure the wattle birds were 'muscling in' on me, that was after the koel moved and I was then under the food tree, 2 of them came very close to me, climbing down branches etc. Right next to me and looking at me. 


It sounded as though there was another chick but I am wondering if that was a wattlebird imitating a koel to encourage it to move. The wattlebirds were definitely calling to it with their soft half calls. 


It's odd the wattlebirds all banded together to get this plump chick safely fed. Surely they know it's not the same species? I'm concerned about this koel expansion., will it impact red wattlebird population ?


 I've heard a fair bit of this constant squawking over the last week and now I know what the female sounds like (a male koel with laryngitis) I believe they've been colonising the surrounding streets over the last few months.








Sent from my Galaxy



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