Usually arriving in September, the Eastern Koel is a large migratory cuckoo which flies to Australia from New Guinea, Indonesia and possibly the Philippines. It breeds in northern and eastern Australia, mostly in Queensland and NSW where it is common in suburban Brisbane and Sydney.
When seen, the male Eastern Koel is easily identified by its entirely glossy black plumage, tinged with blue and green, and striking red eye. The female has glossed brown upperparts, heavily spotted with white, and a black crown. The underparts are generally buff-cream with many fine black bars. Young birds resemble the adult female, but have considerably more buff and a dark eye. The Eastern Koel is a member of the cuckoo family. Adults are rather shy and they are heard much more than seen. In contrast to the adults, fledglings can be very conspicuous as they beg loudly for food from their foster parents. Their average size is 42cm and their average weight is 190 grams.
The male Eastern Koel advertises its presence by a loud ascending whistle or ‘koo-el’, monotonously repeated; the call of the female is a repetitive ‘keek-keek-keek-keek’. Males often call throughout the day and well into the night. Bird call recorded by: Marc Anderson
Most Koels migrate from Australia to New Guinea and probably eastern Indonesia and even further north, but some remain in northern Australia. During breeding season, they are found in northern and eastern Australia, south to about Nowra, New South Wales, although in recent years more birds are being encountered further south and west into Victoria.
Eastern Koels are found in tall forests and are common in suburban areas.
Usually arriving in September, the Eastern Koel flies to Australia from New Guinea and Indonesia. Increasingly koels are venturing into Victoria, and vagrants have occurred as far afield as the Murray River and Adelaide.
Eastern Koels feed almost entirely in the canopy of trees. Occasionally mixed flocks are formed with other species such as pigeons. Food consists of fruits, especially figs, taken directly from the tree.
The Eastern Koel is a brood parasite, that is, it lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species. Common hosts are the Red Wattlebird, friarbirds, Magpie-larks, and figbirds. A single egg is laid in the host’s nest and once hatched the chick forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest. The nestling period is 35 days. When the chick leaves the nest it roosts in the outer branches of a tree, cheeping incessantly while the significantly smaller parents desperately search for enough food to please the nagging youngster. This is a full-time job, as the young Koel will grow to nearly twice their size. Eventually, it migrates northwards, usually later than the adults, to return as a breeding bird the following spring. Breeding season is from September to March.