Fan-tailed cuckoos

To: "birding aus" <>, "Philip A. Veerman" <>
Subject: Fan-tailed cuckoos
From: "The Dam Lamb Service Clan" <>
Date: Sun, 24 Aug 2003 05:24:18 +1000
I've followed this thread with some interest.Firstly, my intuitive reaction was that the Fan-tailed Cuckoo is seen or heard for all of the year up here on the Blackall Range.I couldn't think of a time of the year when it wasn't around. Secondly, it's a bird which once caused me to lose my way (literally) by following its call into dense mallee, and then , on getting back onto the track, couldn't for the life of me figure out which direction to take back to camp as daylight quickly faded. I was saved by the arrival of a fellow birder calmly walking back to camp whom I gratefully and sheepishly joined, as her countenance had none of the rank anxiety showing on mine. I wasn't let out again until I purchased a compass so I least I knew my N from my S.
    Anyway, I thought I'd better check my perception that fan-tailed were here all year round and checked back through my monthly home valley list of the last 9 years.And I was right, kind-off.They were recorded in every month of the year, but not in any one year. The peak months were March, April, May, June (middle-Autumn to mid-winter) where they were present in 8 of the 9 years.The lowest counts were in Dec and Jan with 1 and 3 records respectively. The other months averaged 5 or 6 of the 9 years of records.
      The year with the most months of sightings was1998 with 11months, with the lowest being'97,'01,'02 with only 6 months. Interestingly the low years of '01 and '97 contained two of the three only Dec sightings whilst the only Jan sighting was in the top year, '98.
    So if its possible/wise to summarize these very localized records, Fan-tailed cuckoos can appear year round on the Blackall Range (100 km N of Brisbane), but are most abundant/visible in the period March to June. They are regularly seen from Feb through to Nov. and least likely to be recorded in mid-summer.
I think my intuition was correct, and yes I still use a compass, though it doesn't always stop the panic!!
Russ Lamb, Maleny,SEQ

Whilst looking at references on the Fan-tailed Cuckoo, I'll add some info from Canberra, on the population trends of the species, with this extract from my "Canberra Birds: A Report on the first 21 years of the Garden Bird Survey". (This is based on 1316 observer years of data.) The COG Atlas (McComas Taylor & COG) tells a similar story.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis

This is a forest and woodland inhabitant. It is less migratory than other cuckoos, so its monthly pattern, although typical of cuckoos, is much less well defined. This species is quite vocal, especially during spring. However the call is probably not as far-carrying as Pallid or Brush Cuckoo. From a mid winter low with very few observations, numbers increase sharply from August to a peak in October, then decline quickly till December, staying in even reduced numbers through summer and autumn before declining to the winter low. Numbers have declined significantly, at about half the abundance from Years 12 to 21 as for the first 11 years.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Caine <>
To: <>
Date: Saturday, 23 August 2003 16:41
Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] re: Fan-tailed cuckoos

Hi all,

According to the Atlas of Victorian Birds (1987)

"Fan-tailed Cuckoos are partial summer migrants to Victoria from further north, although those that remain during winter usually stop calling and become inconspicuous". p 159.

Presumably this means some migrate north and some don't ?

My impression here in Maribyrnong (Vic, Melb.) was that one arrived recently. None were sighted over a period of 7 months of regular observations prior to September. 

The Atlas entry goes on to indicate that reporting rates for Fan-tailed Cuckoos in April, May and June were at 5%  - the lowest level - and then peaked at  25-30 % in September, October and November. The reporting rates do show prescence all year.

If some migrate, it seems likely that they return in August and September ??

Pizzey and Knight says "part migratory".
Simpson and Day indicate annual migrant.
Slater, Slater and Slater say "common resident or south-east; common migrant in Tas."
Michael Morcombe says "partly locally migratory"

So where does that leave us ? Somewhere in between resident and migratory ?

Neither are fully correct.


Jim Caine

Jim Caine

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