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13

Pheasant Coucal

(Centropus phasianinus)
Alternate name(s): "Coucal", "Swamp Pheasant", "Cane Pheasant"
Size: 60-75 cm
Weight: 245-380 g (male), 330-585 g (female)
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Pheasant Coucal at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "phasianinus"

ADULT

BREEDING

Frontal view from below of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, January 2013]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, December 2016]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, January 2013]

Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage showing the bird's prominent "eyelashes" (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, January 2013]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage hiding in a tree; it is clearly visible that the bird is keeping a watchful eye on the photographer
[Eulah Creek, February 2012]

This image gives the clearest view of the upper body of the same Pheasant Coucal as shown above; its appearance is somewhat reminiscent of an Apostlebird, with barred wing plumage and a long tail; note also the impressive, long talons
[Eulah Creek, February 2012]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage with its head cocked
[Eulah Creek, February 2012]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in a Jacaranda tree with sparse foliage (photo courtesy of J. Meehan)
[Maryland, Newcastle, NSW, November 2012]

Near-dorsal view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, December 2016]

Distant frontal view of a Pheasant Coucal in flight (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, January 2013]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage in flight (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, January 2014]

NON-BREEDING

Frontal portrait of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage; this species is usually shy and frontal shots tend to show birds hiding in dense shrubbery (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, March 2017]

Frontal view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, March 2017]

Frontal view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage; it is very unusual for a bird of this species to pose for the camera... (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, May 2017]

Near-frontal view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage on a fence post (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, May 2017]

Near-lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage on a fence post (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, May 2017]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage; this bird is seen near prickly shrubs, which is its usual habitat (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Pullenvale Forest Park, near Anstead, QLD, April 2017]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage; here the bird is seen out in grassland, which is more unusual (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Pullenvale Forest Park, near Anstead, QLD, April 2017]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage; it is more unusual yet for a bird of this species to pose for the camera... (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, May 2017]

Race "melanurus"

ADULT

BREEDING

Frontal view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Charles Darwin NP, Darwin, NT, March 2018]

Near-frontal view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Pickertaramoor, Melville Island, off Darwin, NT, December 2016]

Near-lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Pickertaramoor, Melville Island, off Darwin, NT, December 2016]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Botanical Gardens, Darwin, NT, November 2018]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Pickertaramoor, Melville Island, off Darwin, NT, December 2016]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Koolan Island, WA, November 2013]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage - what is "wrong" with this bird? (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Charles Darwin NP, Darwin, NT, March 2018]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage - it is soaking wet! (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Charles Darwin NP, Darwin, NT, March 2018]

NON-BREEDING

Frontal view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lee Point, Darwin, NT, September 2018]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kunnunurra, WA, April 2018]

Lateral view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage at take-off (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kunnunurra, WA, April 2018]

Dorsal view of a Pheasant Coucal in non-breeding plumage looking back over its shoulder (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lee Point, Darwin, NT, September 2018]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Jan Eggs: 2(?) Incubation period: ca. 15 days Fledging age: ?

The breeding season of Pheasant Coucals depends on geographic latitude and can run from August to March. They can have several broods per season.

Pheasant Coucals are the only non-parasitic cuckoos of Australia, i.e. they build their own nest and bring up their chicks themselves.

Nest building: ? Incubation: Male & female Dependent care: Male

Pheasant Coucal chicks are semi-nidifugous (or semi-precocial). They do not hatch feathered, to leave the nest within a day, but have only some hairy down. However, once they have grown a first coat of feathers, they leave the nest to walk around following their father, who by then is the sole carer, long before they can fly.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Rank grass, straw, sugar cane, pandanus, green eucalypt leaves Height above ground: N/A

Pheasant Coucal chicks in their nest (photo courtesy of R. Russell)
[Mount Molloy, QLD, November 2006]

Pheasant Coucal chicks in their nest; to do a head count, one had best make them beg for food - 2!
(photo courtesy of R. Russell)
[Mount Molloy, QLD, November 2006]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 38 x 29 mm Colour: White Shape: Rounded oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial? Mobility: Migratory Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Although Pheasant Coucals are non-parasitic cuckoos (see above), other birds still know that they are cuckoos and accordingly do not want to have them around. We have seen them being chased by Pied Currawongs.

Food, Diet

This Pheasant Coucal in breeding plumage appears to be foraging for prey under the bark of a termite-infested tree trunk
(photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Botanical Gardens, Darwin, NT, November 2018]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

pcoucal_art_20131203.m4a phasianinus
(SE QLD)
Male calling female © ART
pcoucal_mac_20110205.mp3 phasianinus
(E NSW)
Male calling female (distant) © MC

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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