Friday, 16 July 2010

the asian koel

From time to time, I would hear the distinct melodious calls of a strange bird just outside my window. It was fairly large, usually black with a pair of crimson red eyes. Sometimes, I would hear two such birds, making these strange "wook wook" sounds at each other.

The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes. It is found mainly in South East Asia and China and is best known for being a brood parasite. In other words, it lays its eggs in the nests of crows, mynahs and other hosts, where the young are eventually raised by the "foster parents".

The black ones I see are the male birds while the female has brownish feathers with rufous streaks n the head and a heavily white striped belly.

I got the chance to film two male birds in confrontation. Apparently, such behaviour is well-documented but not widely understood. Unlike the usual high-pitched calls, they would normally make soft "wook wook" noises and engage in this strange rhythmic dance-like movements which involved moving up and down as well as side-ways. It is unlikely to be a courtship ritual, given that two males were involved (then again, anything is possible these days). If it was meant to be confrontational, it was rather passive.

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