Channel-billed Cuckoos raised by Pied Currawongs

Channel-billed Cuckoo fledgling 3 being fed by Currawong Yungaburra 3Jan2017
Pied Currawong (left) feeding a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo

Observing the behaviour of Cuckoos, their young, and host birds is fascinating. Cuckoos parasitise nests of other birds, laying their eggs in nests of suitable birds, taking no part in incubation or parenting.

Channel-billed Cuckoos are Australia’s largest cuckoo, migrating to the north and east of Australia from New Guinea in spring to breed. They must lay their eggs in nests of large birds so that the  host parents are up to the job of feeding the young. Pied Currawongs, Australian Magpies, crows and ravens are usually the chosen hosts.

According to BirdLife Australia, Channel-billed Cuckoo hatchlings don’t evict the hosts’ young like all other cuckoos – they simply demand all the food, and their massive size ensures they get it (thus, the hosts’ biological chicks perish).

Channel-billed Cuckoo fledgling 1 preening Yungaburra 3Jan2017
Juv Channel-billed Cuckoo preening

While out with Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay at Arkarra Lagoons on 28th December 2016, we witnessed two Channel-billed Cuckoo fledglings being fed by a pair of Torresian Crows. This caused quite a bit of interest as the birdwatchers present (including me)  had not previously seen a nest of two surviving cuckoos.

During the next week while Grahame and I were on a birdwatching trip to far north Queensland, we witnessed the same observation, with the host parents being Pied Currawongs.

It was an amusing and unusual spectacle, so we relaxed on our camp chairs in a park watching this odd family with very stressed and overworked parents. I’m sure my toddlers weren’t this much trouble!

Channel-billed Cuckoo fledgling 2 being fed by Currawong Yungaburra 3Jan2017

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