Re: Channel-billed Cuckoos Brisbane

To: "Philip Veerman" <>
Subject: Re: Channel-billed Cuckoos Brisbane
From: "Natalia Atkins" <>
Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2007 19:09:32 +1000
Hi Wendy and Philip,

Many thanks to both of you for responding to my questions about Channel
Billed cuckoos. Its so interesting to hear other perspectives.

I've been spending more time with the local cuckoos lately, trying to get
some photos that aren't just black blobs in clumps of leaves. They are so
shy, but also gently curious too.  Some of my photos are ok now, but they
like to have a twig or branch between them and my line of sight, so my
perfect cuckoo shot still eludes me. I expect its a security measure. But so
long as the token `twig' is there, they let me approach quite closely.

As it turns out, the cuckoo I observed is a juvenile, and I have since
spotted its parent, which seems to keep close by. From what we can deduce,
it appears that the Crows managed, somehow, to raise 3 baby crows (I admit
they look smaller than usual) as well as the juvenile cuckoo. The cuckoo
still begs them for food and likes to be around them, but it is well
developed now and I have not seen them actually feed it. Perhaps because the
parent keeps close by,  the crows have taken to swooping it and chasing it
off.  As  the week has progressed, the two cuckoos seem to be spending more
time together, and the juvenile cuckoo is less inclined to follow the crow
family. It has been suggested to me that the parent cuckoo is now feeding
the juvenile. I haven't seen that happen yet, but that may well be the case.

In terms of `imprintng', my thoughts are that feeding a juvenile bird (or
animal) is what causes imprinting, and that instinct is responsible for
sexual / nesting behaviour. For the juvenile cuckoo, I think it would have
been happy enough to be part of the crow family, and probably thought it was
a crow, to the extent that its instincts allowed it to feel that way. It
appears that what happens is that the juvenile is ejected from the host
family when it is still dependent on them for food, and the adult cuckoo
steps in. So therefore, a second `imprinting' occurs, with the original
cuckoo parent. The parent then goes on to teach it how to be an adult
cuckoo, and to not mate with crows.

Well thats my guess, but in any case they are beautiful and fascinating
birds. I feel so lucky to have been able to get to know them a little
better. Thanks for sharing all the extra info and insights.

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