The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) is a cuckoo and brood parasite. In Singapore, it makes use of the House Crow as its host; laying eggs in its nest and leaving its young to be raised by the crows as foster parents.
“In mid April 2011, I came across a murder of House Crows (Corvus splendens). They were cawing loudly. Some were in the trees (left) and some circling around. Hearing some noise, I took peeps into the dense foliage of a tall tree. A juvenile Asian Koel was discovered hidden high in the canopy. The cawing crows must be protecting this juvenile, which may have fledged not too long ago. Although aware of the danger from the intimidating crows, which have strong parental instinct to protect their young, I decided to watch. It must be cautioned here that some nesting birds have high protective instinct and are known to dive-bomb much larger creatures; including humans. I have witnessed nesting crows and even small swallows dive-bombing at people who, inadvertently, went too near their nests. I will have to stay alert and keep an eye on the crows. One of the crows must be one of the foster parents as it came down low to guard against my intrusion.
“In the past I have seen crows cooperating with each other to protect their young. This time, however, not only did they chase after an adult koel that was around, two crows were spotted chasing after one of their own. I saw food being carried to the juvenile koel, but cannot see the actual feeding due to obstructive view. Later, I was surprised to discover yet another juvenile koel that was hidden in an adjacent tree next to the first. Hence, there could be a possibility of more than one nesting. This could explain why the crows were even chasing after their own kind.
“Now, how can I be certain that there were two juveniles when they were seen separately and not together? To be honest, I was not that certain in the field. I have to check through and examine the images in detail to be certain. I could conclude that there were two distinct juveniles as there were obvious differences in the eyes and plumage. Juvenile ‘A’ had brown eyes (above left) while Juvenile ‘B’ had grey eyes (above right). Another distinct difference was in the white markings that were along the gape. It was more prominent and longer in Juvenile ‘A’ than in Juvenile ‘B’.
“Two weeks later, a revisit to the site yielded only Juvenile ‘A’, which was still around. Its foster parent crows were still guarding the juvenile; but they were in a different tree. As for Juvenile ‘B’ , it was either very well hidden or was no longer around. A composite image of ‘Juvenile ‘A’ is enclosed for comparison of its plumage difference after 2 weeks (above).”
Kwong Wai Chong
12th June 2011