Monday, February 04, 2008

koël


Imagine if you were a sparrow & this suddenly appeared amongst your young. Actually, it wouldn’t be a sparrow because their nests aren’t large enough; but the koel, like most cuckoos, is what’s called a brood parasite & chooses a nest with eggs somewhat like their own to avoid parental duties.

For this is a young koel. Not so much unafraid of humans; more not knowing what to do when they approach. The koel has two types of call, the one that gives it its name—ko-el—& the other a kind of swanee whistle sound, rising in pitch, circular, turning & turning in the gyre but upwards, not down, which I think is its mating call. This one gave out a loud, repetitive chirp, calling for its parents, not knowing that they’d abandoned it long ago, & its foster parents didn’t want a bar of it. We heard it, went out to see what it was because it sounded unusual, & found it slowly bopping around in a chilli bush before it jumped up onto the pool fence. Stayed there for many minutes, long enough for us to go & get the camera & for Lauren to photograph it up close & personal from several angles.

It’s one of the redeeming features of this place, the bird life. As I’ve written before, it’s about the only place in Australia where the two varieties of kookaburra co-exist. There are water-birds & raptors galore, galahs & other varieties of parrot, little birds whose song is a thousand-fold bigger than their bodies &, of course, the pelicans without whom, etc. Most live here all year round, but the koel is a visitor, coming south from Papua New Guinea in September, heading back north around April, spending long enough here to go through at least two breeding seasons.

It’s sexually dimorphic, that is, there is a difference in form between the genders of the same species. The male is quite dark, with only a bit of mottle in its tail. The female is mottled & barred all over, like the bird photographed, except it will acquire some more black around its head & throat as it ages. &, needless to say, it’s the male that makes all the noise.

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