“My wife and I spotted this adult Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis bubutus) in the heat of the afternoon (3.50pm). It was initially seen ‘hiding’ from us in a young acacia (Acacia auriculiformis) tree (below left). We saw prey in its beak and recognised it had probably had a nest and young nearby. So we withdrew to about 8-10 meters to give it space. After about 10 minutes it felt we were less of a threat and slowly scrambled up the tree to launch itself, as coucals often do. Had great views of the ‘clumsy’ flight and excellent gliding of this bird (below right).
“Always a struggle between taking video or stills but I am still largely keen on stills. It landed some 15 -18 meters away but we did not look hard for the nest so as not to disturb the young. Also there were some other people around and the juveniles of this species are collected for ‘medicinal’ value by some traditional individuals (see GC Madoc 1976, Quentin Phillipps 2009, Smythies & Davidson 1999).
“The prey carried for its young looks like a snake. We considered the tail of a large lizard but all views support a snake. Possibly a Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) from my available snake guides at home and Wikipedia. This is highly venomous snake locally. Whether this was killed by the Greater Coucal or part of a road kill is uncertain.
“In records from the region the Greater Coucal is not documented as feeding on snakes, see The Birds of Borneo by Smythies (4th edition revised by Davidson 1999). Nor in the peninsular (see DR Wells 1999). Usually documented as eating snails, small rodents, frogs, eggs, lizards, etc.
“A brief search on the net showed some suggestion of snakes in the diet from the Indian sub-continent:
1. ‘A poor flier that eats lizards, small snakes, eggs and young of other birds and also insects.'”
2. ‘Diet: Insects, Reptiles like snakes, lizards.’ and
3. ‘Not sure if the above are based on observation of feeding on snakes, but our observation support them. However the same species from another region may behave differently.’
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Kuching City North, Sarawak (Borneo), Malaysia
Open “scrub” land near urban housing area
12th March 2011