Host feeding cuckoo

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Host feeding cuckoo
From: Jill Dening <>
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2012 11:14:23 +1000
Hello All,

I have a bit of an unsolved question from this morning's birding at Ewan Maddock Dam, near Landsborough on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Whilst I stayed scoping the water, looking at such boring things as Painted Snipe, Spotless Crake, Black-tailed Native Hen, my husband James wandered off to do some bush birding.

He had just been watching a Grey Shrike-Thrush, when his attention went to a White-browed Scrubwren rather higher than usual in the tree. Another bird flew past the scrubwren, landed close by and was fed by the scrubwren. At first glance James thought he was looking at the shrike-thrush again, but once the bird was fed, James looked harder and saw it had the barred tail of a cuckoo, and the size and shape of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo.

When he told me this, I remonstrated that juvenile Fantailed Cuckoos aren't grey. They are heavily streaked brown. He said, "I know, but this is what I saw - a grey bird with a barred tail, looking like a grey Fan-tailed Cuckoo, being fed by a White-browed Scrubwren. There were no spots or streaks on this bird."

From perusing HANZAB (thanks, Danny!) there is no clear timing of moult from the brown of juvenile to the grey of immature.

Help! Has anyone any thoughts on this? Or has anyone ever seen a grey-plumaged Fantailed Cuckoo being fed? If this wasn't coming from the mouth of my own husband, I'd dismiss this out of hand. He's been birding for 25+ years.


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

26° 51' 41"S  152° 56' 00"E

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