Page 46 - Sandgate Guide April – May Issue
P. 46

EStory Leanne Palmer
ven their voice is peculiar. In summer you may hear a low deep “boop boop boop” call, while in winter they make
sharp hissing sounds.
Primarily ground dwelling birds, their lack of grace in the air is to be expected. Their manner of walking is quite reptilian, with movements more like a fat lizard than a bird. Clumsiness in flight and a seeming lack of concern with being observed, makes you question how they became an evolutionary success; they appear to be such easy prey.
They are undoubtedly survivors though, distributed widely over northern Australia and preferring habitats with dense lower vegetation. In Queensland, they have found sugar cane fields to make ideal homes, with rich supplies of insects and amphibians, and good shelter for nest-building.
The cuckoo family, to which they belong, are well known for the practice of laying eggs in the nests of other bird species. This behaviour is called brood parasitism, and offers massive time
and energy saving benefits. Pheasant Coucals however, are the only cuckoos in Australia who care for their own young.
A loose bowl-shaped nest is made of leaves, twigs, and grasses. The highest reaching pieces are sometimes pulled together to form a canopy, reminiscent of the constructions made by Satin Bowerbirds.
The chicks, once fledged, are among the strangest young birds you are likely to see- stumpy, with a big head and beak, and covered in short coarse black feathers, with long white wispy strands protruding from their crown.
Pheasant Coucals can still be spotted (or heard) regularly in our suburbs, particularly where there are patches of shrubby undergrowth and long grass. In Sandgate, they are often seen around Dowse Lagoon and Peace Park.
Spring and summer sees them sporting their breeding plumage of mainly black feathers. They are on the move and more likely to be seen passing through backyards. Enjoy your encounters and marvel at one of nature’s true oddities.
Some birds capture our attention on account
of their colourful plumage, graceful forms, enchanting voices, or agility in the air. But Pheasant Coucals are just plain strange. Although only the size of a small chicken, their prehistoric appearance and unusual habits certainly inspire curiosity.
Photo by James Niland from Brisbane, Australia

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