The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) is a brood parasite. In Singapore the bird lays its eggs in the nest of the House Crow (Corvus splendens). In India it parasitises the nest of the House Crow as well as that of the Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos). Once the koel’s egg hatches, the chick will be looked after by the crows until the former is able to fend for itself.
It is thus surprising when Sunjoy Monga reported seeing an adult female Asian Koel feeding a juvenile koel in Mumbai, India:
“Earlier this morning (28th Apr, c. 0730 hrs) when on a walk along Lokhandwala Back Road and near the BMC lagoon (in Andheri west, suburban Mumbai), I came across some weird shrieking calls from the overgrown foliage along the path.
“A closer check revealed the presence of an adult female koel (left bottom) and near it was a wee-bit slender-of-form, much-darkish, speckled bird that she was feeding, in fact just had finished a bout of shoving food in the juvenile’s beak that was responding as is typical of a just-fed fledgling. The juvenile was instantly recognisable as a (full-fledged) juvenile koel that I have seen on numerous occasions earlier (left top).
“A bit too early in the season to see a juvenile koel got me wondering. Then I recollected having seen a Large-billed (Jungle) Crow pair nesting not far a few weeks ago near the electric sub-station not far from here (and which I checked today had fallen off considerably). This species invariably breeds earlier than the commoner House Crow and it is not often that I have come across the Large-billed’s nest parasitised by a koel in this region (in fact I think only on a couple of occasions years ago have Jos and I definitely seen so).
“What was most interesting was watching the female koel feeding the juvenile of her species even as a solitary Large-billed Crow twice made a charge at the scene of activity, evidently to flush away the adult koel who responded with her typically boisterous screams and flew off across into the mangrove and foliage. The young koel meanwhile continued with its hysterical shrieking and the crow appeared as if to feed it but was disturbed by much human movement (morning walkers and a gawking birder I guess) and retreated. A White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis) pair called hysterically which I knew was agitated because their own nest was not very from this spot.
“I waited not far to observe and about two minutes later the female koel reappeared a tree away but was chased away by the crow that arrived at the scene. Pretty soon the juvenile koel too took off across the waterbody with the crow trailing it.
“I made a dash home, about half a kilometre away to pick my camera and try capture this scene and waited an hour more. However, during this time I could not relocate the birds though the crow continued to appear around intermittently and the koel’s familiar crying could be heard in the distance.
“Years ago, we had seen in Kandivli, a female koel feeding a lone koel fledgling. I wonder if any other cuckoo species have been seen feeding their own juveniles reared by another species? Has the koel adult ever been observed feeding juvenile crows too?”
(Images by YC Wee)