“The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) must be thriving as it is now quite a common bird in Singapore. Their presence is usually given away – not by sight, but from hearing their unmistakable, prominent calls. The male’s plumage appeared to be all-black, but is actually a dark metallic bluish sheen. The female’s plumage is brown, with whitish or light brownish speckles on the upperpart. The underpart is white with heavy brownish streaks that could also look like stripes. The long tail feathers of the female are barred.
“I have encountered a trio of Asian Koels recently – two females, which were having a duet, and a male, which barged in to spoil their party.
“It was 7:30 am in the morning when I was passing by and loud calls were heard. The calls were distinct and unmistakable, which I recognised to be from the Asian Koel. Upon investigation, I found two female Asian Koels hidden in the dense foliage of a tree (above left). The pair seemed to be performing a duet; alternating their two-syllables calls that sounded similar to their common name: “ko-el, ko-el”. Their heads and tails were in dance-like movements – moving up, down or sideways, jerking in rhythm with their constant calls (above right). They were not stationary but were moving constantly from branch to branch. Within sight of each other, they were never far apart. At times, they would be on the same branch moving closer to each other. As the distance between them shortened to less than a body-length, the face-off will be abruptly ended with one bird darting away to another branch. As there was no sign of aggression, it did not seem confrontational. It must be qualified that they were at times blocked from view by the dense foliage; hence, some action may have been missed.
“Later, one of the birds flew to another tree. The other bird quickly followed. Their duet performance resumed but it became more difficult to view the action as they stayed higher and were inside denser foliage.
“Finally, a male koel appeared and flew to their tree, making the same “ko-el, ko-el” calls as it approached (left). It did not perch for long. There was a sudden commotion as the male barged to where the females were and broke them up. After a short chase in the tree, one of the females flushed out of the tree with the male following closely behind. The other female was left alone in the tree while they disappeared into dense vegetation.
“Were the female koels trying to attract and court any male koel that was nearby?”
Kwong Wai Chong
22nd June 2010