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Welcome to Birdata 24 August 2016

Common Koel: Sydney's Sound of Spring

J.N. Davies

The spring has sprung, the grass is rizz, I wonder where the birdies is... So intoned Winnie the Pooh. If he had lived in Sydney, the bird of spring that he referred to would undoubtedly have been the Common Koel. Its characteristic monotonous and feverish cry of cooee, cooee, cooee ringing through the evening air is a sure sign that spring has arrived.

Usually arriving in September, the Common Koel is a large migratory cuckoo which flies to Australia from New Guinea, Indonesia and possibly as far away as the Philippines. It breeds in northern and eastern Australia, mostly in Queensland and New South Wales, at least as far south as Sydney, where they are commonly seen in the suburbs, especially where the sandstone landscapes predominate. A few venture into eastern Victoria, and vagrants have been recorded as far afield as Melbourne, the Murray River and even Adelaide. They remain until March or April, when they return to their non-breeding grounds.

Often foraging while concealed among the dense foliage of Moreton Bay Fig trees, Koels gorge themselves on fruit. When seen in the treetops, male Koels appear black, but in closer views are actually a glossy blue-black. The females are quite different, with brown and fawn coloured plumage with various patterns of spots and barring. This affords them some degree of camouflage when skulking about looking for nests to lay their eggs in.

Being a cuckoo, Koels lay their eggs in the nest of other species, especially Magpie-larks, Figbirds and large honeyeaters. The female lays just one egg in the nest, which is incubated by the hapless hosts.

The accompanying map shows the widespread distribution of Koels in the suburbs of Sydney and the surrounding districts. You will notice that the records are much more sparsely scattered further south and west of the built-up areas, indicating that, though Koels occur further south, Sydney is the southern stronghold for the species.

If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just follow this link and you can explore BirdLife Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds.


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