Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Eudynamys scolopacea (Linnaeus, 1758)

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum/Division:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Cuculiformes
Family:Cuculidae
Genus:Eudynamys
Species:E. scolopacea
Common Names:Asian Koel
Status:Common reisdent and winter visitor

Description

The Asian Koel is sexually dimorphic. The male has a metallic black plumage, resembling the crow except for its red eyes. The female is brown with white spots.

Read more about the Cuculiformes order.
Read more about the Cuculidae family.

Localities

Found throughout Singapore and its offshore islands.

General Biology

The Asian Koel is a brood paraiste, laying its egg in the nest of various birds. In Singapore the host has been established as the House Crow (Corvus splendens). The foster parents normally feed the koel chicks but there has been at least an instance reported from India, where an adult koel was seen feeding the fledgling.

The call of the Asian Koel can be heard in heard in video clips in this LINK where there are also links to various different calls. An instance of a fledging mimicing the food begging call of a crow was recorded in Singapore in October 2007.

Although the koel is much bigger than the Pied Fantail (Eudynamys scolopaceus), the latter was caught on video mobbing it.

Singapore's successful culling of crows has seen an unexpected increase in the number of koels. A study in Bangladesh (Brgum et al., 2011) shows that as crows indulge in colonial nesting, less nests closeby means less pairs of eyes keeping watch of koels sneaking into crows' nests to lay their eggs. Another reason may be that koels are now laying their eggs in the nests of other birds (Lowther, 2011) - but this has yet to be observed in Singapore.

Diet

Feeds on fruits, especially figs, fruits of papays (Carica papaya), Indian Cherry (Muntingia calabura), Tamarind (Tamarindus indica), Indian Curry Tree (Murraya koenigii), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Noni (Morinda citrifolia), Australian Mulberry (Pipturus argenteus), Alexandra Palm (Archontophoenix alexandriae), MacArthur Palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii), and Ceram Palm (Eudynamys scolopacea) with a video clip showing the bird swallowing the fruit whole. Large seeds (and maybe smaller ones as well) are regurgitated soon after swallowing. It also feeds on insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars, and probably the indigestable exoskeleton is cast out as a pellet.

A more complete list of food taken by the Asian Koel is given in this LINK.

Life Cycle

The Asian Koel is a nest parasite. In Singapore, the female lays her eggs in the nest of the House Crow (Corvus splendens). Normally, the male koel distracts the incubating crow from the nest while the female koel sneaks in to lay her egg. When the koel's egg hatches, the chick may push the crow's egg out of the nest. Incubation period has been reported to be 13-14 days; fledging in 19-28 days.

In Singapore the House Crow breeds throughout the year at intervals of three months or so. The breeding cycle of the Asian Koel similarly follows that of the crow. 

Before mating there is always courtship feeding where the male offers food to the female.

Ecological Role

Asian Koels are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of the House Crow in Singapore. This helps to control the population of the House Crow. Unfortunately, nests of these crows are regularly destroyed in Singapore, regardless of whether they contain crow's or koel's eggs/chicks. As such we do not fully benefit from such natural control by koels.

References

Begum, S., A. Moksnes, E. Røskaft, B. G. Stokke, 2011. Factors influencing host nest use by brood parasitic Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea). Journal of Ornithology, 152: 793-800.

Lowther, P. E., 2011. Host List of Avian Brood Parasites 2 –– Cuculiformes. Version 12 Sep.2011). Available online: http:// fm1.eldmuseum.org/aa/Files/lowther/OWcList.pdf.

Payne, R. B. 1997. Family Cuculidae (cuckoos). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp.508-607.

Wang, L. K. 2011. Cuckoos. Pp. 283. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L.K. & Hails, C.J. 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179, Singapore.

Wee, Y.C., 2005. Look, what came out of the crow’s nests. Nature Watch 13(1): 22-25.

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