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Channel-billed Cuckoo

A young Channel-billed Cuckoo perched in a tree

Scientific Name: Scythrops novaehollandiae

Size: 58 to 65 

What does it look and sound like?

The Channel-billed Cuckoo is the largest parasitic cuckoo in the world. Apart from its large size, its massive pale, down-curved bill, grey plumage (darker on the back and wings) and long barred tail, make it impossible to confuse it with any other bird. In flight the long tail and long wings give the bird a crucifix-shaped silhouette. The call of the Channel-billed Cuckoo, a loud “kawk” followed by a more rapid, and weaker “awk-awk-awk…”, is as distinctive as the birds appearance. The call may be given when perched, but is most often given in flight. Young Channel-billed Cuckoos have more mottled buff, brown and grey plumage.

Where is it found?

The Channel-billed Cuckoo migrates to Australia from New Guinea and Indonesia between August and October each year. The Channel-billed Cuckoo migrates to Australia from New Guinea and Indonesia between August and October each year.

What are its habitats & habits?

It is found in tall open forests, in northern and eastern Australia, usually where host species occur.

The favoured food of the Channel-billed Cuckoo is native figs and native fruits, though some seeds and insects are also taken. Figs are taken from the tree using the birds massive bill.

The Channel-billed Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of the Australian Magpie, Gymnorhina tibicen, Pied Currawong, Strepera graculina and members of the crow family Corvidae. Unlike other cuckoos, the young birds do not evict the host’s young or eggs from the nest, but simply grow faster and demand all the food, thus starving the others. Often the adult female will damage the existing eggs in the nest when she lays her own, and she may even lay more than one egg in a single nest.

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This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

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