Pied Fantail feeding juvenile cuckoo

on 13th October 2008


In late August 2008, Mark Chua documented an adult Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) feeding a very hungry juvenile cuckoo (above). Interestingly, Mark had earlier seen another pair around the same the area of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

The cuckoo was a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo (Cacomantis sepulcralis) (below left), seen from South Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia through Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali and the Philippines and to Lesser Sundas.


The bird is an uncommon resident of Singapore, seen near coastal areas and around mangroves.

This cuckoo is a brood parasite with more than 60 species of hosts recorded throughout its range. Payne (1997) lists these hosts to include sunbird, tailorbird, shrike, flycatcher, fantail, white-eye, wren… the list goes on.

In Singapore the host has been identified as the Pied Fantail. Over at Peninsular Malaysia, the Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae) is another of its brood-host (Wells, 2007).

Interestingly, most of the hosts are smaller birds. This means that foster parents need to work extra hard to find food for the larger cuckoo chick and a much larger fledgling.

Davies, N. B. (2000). Cuckoos, cowbirds and other cheats. London: T&AD Poyser.
2. Payne, R.B. (1997). Family Cuculidae (cucoos). Pp.508-607 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.
3. Payne, R.B. (2005). The cuckoos. Oxford University Press.
4. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

2 Responses

  1. On Saturday 15 Aug 2009 at around 11:00 am, I also observed at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (Hide 1.2) a pied fantail feeding a juvenile cuckoo. The cuckoo chick (already fledged but could not determine its specie) was quiet when the parent(s) were away foraging but burst with long loud cries when the parent(s) returned with food to direct the them to its perching location.

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