Is that terrible noise actually a bird call?

I am writing this while visiting my son and family in Sydney. We do this several times every year and really enjoy the times we spend with our two grandchildren. It always affords me good opportunities to see birds here, on the journey over from South Australia, and during the return trip. On the first Saturday we were here, my son was washing the car in the back yard and I was there chatting with him. I also had an eye on the children performing on the trampoline. We all stopped what we were doing when we heard a bird call. My first thought was, “Is that terrible noise actually a bird call?

I could see the two birds in question in the street tree a few metres away. Although they were high up in the tree, I had a clear view of them. i didn’t have my camera with me – it was in our locked car 30 metres away – nor did I have my binoculars – which were also in the car. It didn’t matter; I instantly identified the birds as Channel-billed Cuckoos. This was the first time I had actually seen this species, so it counted as a lifer.

I was able to watch them for about a minute as they called raucously. Various other species were mobbing them, trying to get them to fly away. These included Noisy Miners, Rainbow Lorikeets, Australian Magpies, Pied Currawongs and several Australian Ravens. These latter three are all hosts to this cuckoo species, so I am not surprised that they were keen to see them off elsewhere.

During our four weeks here in Sydney I have seen this species several more times, and heard them calling around here on many more occasions. I have learned that although they are not a nocturnal species, they will often call during the night during the breeding season. That must be very annoying to anyone trying to sleep. Thankfully, we do not have this species where I live in South Australia.

You can learn more about this parasitic species and see a photo of it on the Birds in Backyards site. There is also a short sound recording of the call.

Good birding,



3 Responses to “Is that terrible noise actually a bird call?”

  1. Ken Rolph says:

    My wife wants to know if you have Koels in South Australia. If you don’t, she’s moving there.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Ken,

      No Koels here in SA. There was one vagrant individual that appeared for a while in the Athelstone – Paradise areas a few km NE of the CBD. Haven’t heard of any reports in the last few years. It must have been lost – or it took a wrong turn at Katoomba. This species usually only comes down along the coast to about Geelong.

  2. Alan says:

    Impressive birds. FIRST i saw them was up near Tamworth. They were in a big old fig tree. To me they aounded like monkeys.

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