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.
1. 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 www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.
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.
Bird Ecology Study Group Ashy Tailorbird feeding a large Plaintive Cuckoo fledgling
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