It's survival of the noisiest

It's survival of the noisiest

Smart Farmer News
Aa

Ross Pride has had a couple of visitors who've just slipped across from New Guinea. In these 'virus-y' times it's surprising they were allowed in, but if you can fly yourself, you can make your own border crossing arrangements.

Aa
SNEAKY: The channel-billed cuckoos stay in Australia for four or five months, breed, and then leave their eggs with a surrogate to look after.

SNEAKY: The channel-billed cuckoos stay in Australia for four or five months, breed, and then leave their eggs with a surrogate to look after.

See the October edition of Smart Farmer here

We have a couple of visitors who've just slipped across from New Guinea.

In these 'virus-y' times it's surprising they were allowed in, but I guess if you can fly yourself you can make your own border crossing arrangements.

We see them ('welcome' them isn't accurate) each spring. He's pretty bulky, with a big nose, and dressed in grey. That describes her too, in fact.

And they're noisy. As in, all night.

They're channel-billed cuckoos. They stay in Australia for four or five months, breed, and then leave.

For the locals around here, their arrival is reason to be nervous because when it comes to offloading the kids to baby-sitters, these guys have no shame. They're professionals.

Once they've mated, they find unsuspecting surrogate parents to raise the chicks.

They belong to a carefree little club known as 'brood parasites' - certain birds, insects and fish that con a host, either of the same or of another species, to raise its young as if it were its own.

These cuckoos are the world's largest brood parasites.

They are often heard but not seen.

A loud 'kawk' followed by a rapid, and weaker 'awk-awk-awk' roughly translates to 'lock up your children'.

Their generic name, Scythrops, comes from the Ancient Greek skuthro- 'angry' or 'sullen', and ops - 'face', 'eye' or 'countenance'. Sour puss, in other words.

Pairs of the cuckoos work together to get their eggs into host nests, targeting magpies, currawongs, and also crows, which presumably use a familiar crow expression to suggest they sort of fly off.

The male will fly over a nest, the occupants get stirred up and chase him, and the female sneaks in and lays an egg.

Or they may work together, harassing an incubating bird, driving it off the nest and allowing the female to do her dirty work.

When they hatch, the babies don't kick other eggs out or kill the resident chicks, but the cuckoo chick grows faster and demands all the food, thus starving the others.

Isn't nature wonderful?

Hang on, there's something very familiar here.

Come November, if by an inter-species miracle our channel-billed cuckoo were to run for election somewhere - several thousand kilometres from Oz, say - it could have a chance.

It's large, with a distinctive shape; it continues to pursue the opposite sex after it's finished breeding; it makes a lot of noise (not that you'd call them tweets); it is only supposed to stay for a certain period; it uses distracting tactics; and it creates havoc with the established order of things...spooky.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by