Last week I wrote about the confrontations I witnessed on a morning walk. A few days later I didn’t even need to walk anywhere. The drama began when a couple of Channel-billed Cuckoos (Scythrops novaehollandae) flew overhead, with their usual raucous cacophony.
On Friday, I went for what I thought would be a quick walk. As it happened there was quite a lot of wildlife, all too busy watching other wildlife to pay me much attention. Fortunately, I had taken my camera along "just in case".
The wildlife interactions began pleasantly, with this Grey Butcherbird feeding a juvenile too lazy to pick up food for itself:
Old King Koel was a cranky old soul…. you’d have to admit this male Eastern Koel looks pretty fierce. He’s putting on a dominance display for the benefit of another male who’s landed in his territory.
One of my favourite collective nouns in English is “murder” – as in a murder of crows. As far as I know, there isn’t a collective noun for cuckoos, perhaps because in Britain the cuckoo is mostly solitary. Here, however, a collective noun is not inappropriate for its cousin, the Channel-bill cuckoo, as this bird often travels in groups of 2 to 5.
In Europe, the male cuckoo’s call is welcomed as a harbinger of spring. In Sydney, the call of the Channel-billed cuckoo is also a harbinger of spring, but not a very attractive one. Graham Pizzey’s description is apt – ‘Voice: Awful – a raucous deliberately-spaced shout of “oik”, “awk” or “wark”, repeated .... often at night’. Unfortunately there are plenty of fig trees around our house, so we hear their ‘awful’ voices day and night at this time of year.
My choice therefore for a collective noun is a “cacophony” of cuckoos. (It could also be applied to cockatoos and perhaps kookaburras, but that’s for another discussion.)
Channel-billed cuckoos don’t look so pretty either. They have a zombie-like colouring – ash-grey plumage with red-rimmed eyes - and a heavy, grooved beak, as you can see: