Not pheasant, nor a crow

I don’t know who wrote which part of the Wikipedia article on the Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis), but the statement “They sunbathe in the mornings singly or in pairs on the top of vegetation with their wings spread out” is absolutely correct. That’s how I saw this one individual whose photos you see in this post. The Coucal is often called a Crow Pheasant, but it is neither; it is a non-parasitic cuckoo.

It is extremely widespread; I’ve seen it in Mumbai, in Kerala, in Assam, and this sighting was in Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur. It is found further east all the way to the Philppines, but northwards is restricted to the Yunnan province of China and southwards to the northern parts of the Malay peninsula. The coucal is one of the few birds in which males perform most of the work in building nests, incubation, and feeding the young. Consistent with this, the females are larger in size. The reason seems to be that they depend on seasonally available food, and the female, which lays many eggs, has to spend more time foraging for food.

I hadn’t got a good photo of a coucal for several years, but this individual seemed to welcome paparazzi. It went about its sunbathing without paying any attention to watchers. I got in several good shots, a sample of which I post here in the hope that some unscrupulous tabloid offers to buy the whole set off me. Baby you’ll be famous, I’ll chase you down until you love me.

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Malkohas, Coucals and Cuckoos

The featured photo is not spectacular, but I’m really fond of it. Until now it’s the only time I’ve seen a Malkoha sitting in the open. All my previous sightings have been of these birds skulking in deep shadows, or breaking out momentarily as it flits from one hide to another. This is the green-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus tristis), a lifer for me. The photo does not show the patch of bright colour around its eyes. The Wikipedia page on this bird contains a wonderful photo, so I have hope that one day I will be able to get a better photo.

A day before I took that shot, we stopped as one of my companions thought that she had seen a Malkoha. I took a few shots of the bird hunkered down behind a lot of criss-crossing branches. After looking at it carefully, we concluded that it was really an Indian cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus). This is not an unusual error. Malkohas (genus Phaenicophaeus) belong to the family Cuculidae, which also includes cuckoos. Many of them are skulkers and hard to photograph.

Earlier in the second day I’d had a hard time trying to photograph another member of this family: the Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis). This is widespread, seen even in Mumbai, but I’ve only managed a couple of good photos of it. This time around I got the rust coloured wings and the long tail which gives it the alternate name crow pheasant, but not its dark coat and bright red eyes. The Lotos had stopped us to photograph this bird because she’d never managed to get a good photo; I hope she got something better than mine.

These birds can drive you cuckoo.