Plaintive Cuckoo handling caterpillars

on 5th October 2009

“I’ve observed this juvenile Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus) for three sessions, each time in the late morning, for about 1.5hrs. It looks for prey from a perch about 2m high and always procures its food (caterpillars) from the grass on the ground. When it sees something, it would usually tilt its head to one side and use the lower eye to have a good look before flying to the ground. Thereafter, it would fly to a perch to shake the caterpillar vigorously before swallowing it whole. The shaking is so fast we don’t see what is happening. We may see a droplet of liquid at one end of the caterpillar, though. The body juices of the caterpillar are probably unpalatable, causing the cuckoo to squeeze them out and shake them off.

“We can also see the zygodactyl feet of the cuckoo, a feature more often associated with woodpeckers.”

Tan Gim Cheong
2nd October 2009

Note:The above image by Tan Gim Cheong shows the Plaintive Cuckoo’s firm hold on the caterpillar just behind its black head with its stomach contents splashing all over. Check out how other birds handle caterpillars below under Related Posts.

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

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