Eastern Koel (formerly Common Koel)
- Colour: the adult male is a distinctive glossy black tinged with iridescent blue and green all over, including its long tail, and it has a striking red eye. The female is glossy brown with white spots on top, and buff-cream underneath with many fine black bars running across its belly. The top of its head is black or brown with pale streaks, and its tail is brown with white bars running across it. A young bird looks like an adult female but has buff barring on its wings and generally much more buff colouring.
- Size: 39 - 46 cm long (from head to tail).
Call: during the breeding season, the male's call is a loud ascending whistle "coo-ee" or "ko-el" which is repeated monotonously, while the female's call is a repetitive "keek-keek-keek-keek". Males can often be heard calling throughout the day, though especially in the early morning and evening, and sometimes at night.
Diet: mainly fruit such as figs and berries, and occasionally insects. It usually feeds in the canopy of trees.
Movement: a summer migrant, it arrives in Australia in late September or October each year from its winter home in south-east Asia. After breeding it leaves Australia in March or April, although some birds may remain in northern Australia.
Breeding: after mating, the female lays a single egg in the nest of another bird species (called brood parasitism), commonly the Red Wattlebird, Magpie-lark, Friarbird or Figbird. After hatching, the young bird forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest and the host bird raises it, unaware that it is not its own young. The young Koel grows to nearly twice the size of the host bird in four to six weeks, before migrating northwards, usually later than the adults. It returns the following year to breed.
What to Observe
- Hosts feeding young
ClimateWatch Science Advisor
Climate change is thought to be affecting the timing of breeding activities in some species of birds, and this may also influence the timing of breeding of Koels, which parasitise the nests of other birds. Their distribution in eastern Australia might also change. Koels have already been sighted more regularly beyond the edge of their usual range in southern Australia, e.g. in southern and central Victoria.
When To Look
- From September to March.
- Young birds are in nests for 3 - 6 weeks.
Where To Look
- Coastal areas in northern and eastern Australia, as far south as Nowra in New South Wales. Some are also occasionally found further south.
- In urban, rural, forest and woodland environments, especially where there are tall trees.
- Wherever there is plenty of fruit in trees, males are often seen perched up high as they call and display to the females.
- Koels are quite shy and are often heard rather than seen.
The map below displays the accumulated observations of these species as reported by ClimateWatch observers, together with the layer showing how the range of the species might change between now and 2085, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, and green areas where the species range might expand.
Higgins PJ (ed.) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Vol. 4. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Morcombe M 2000. Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd, Archerfield, Qld.
Pizzey G & Knight F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
No bird is similar to the Common Koel.
Did You Know?
It is a member of the cuckoo family.
It appears to be becoming more common in cities (for example Sydney and Brisbane). This may be due to an abundance of plants that produce berries or to the spread of some of its hosts, particularly the Red Wattlebird.
Its average weight is 245 grams.
Its predators include birds of prey, and also lace monitors and pythons which take eggs and young.
The call recording is by David Stewart Naturesound
Listen to the Call