Plaintive Cuckoo: 2. Possible courtship behaviour

on 20th December 2014

Please refer to Part 1 at this LINK.

“Based on comments received, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS wrote:

”Both sexes have loud advertising calls; the breeding season is not accurately documented and even now is in ‘full’ bloom; and the location I saw them at was overhanging a pool and backed by a wall, thus no food access in the immediate area.

“After reading Connie’s opinion and talking to her about past observations, I think there are possibly two males with the upper bird in breeding plumage.
She has observed a number of post fledgling adult cuckoos care for juveniles. Also family groups as she mentioned. So may be a family unit.”

“I do not know of anyone in the region who knows about the social behaviour of cuckoos as well as she does.”

Comments by Connie Khoo:
“I would say these two males are in the same family or might be in a courtship ritual. My best bet is dad is trying to ‘coach’ the younger male for some other reasons. I’ve observed dad fed a younger male with caterpillar near my backyard. Please refer my old reference below. The phi-phi-phi-hihihi is very common for the family or couple to communicate. But when both males or pair or more then 3-4 Plaintive are all nearby, the Banded Cuckoo appeared, one will twist the call to ti-ter-weet. Of course they used this call often too. I observed Plaintive are more aggressive or even attack Banded when they are nearby or coming down to the ground looking for caterpillars. Witnessed several times.

“On rare occasions (outside Kek Look Tong, inside Malay cemetery and near my backyard ‘cuckoo field’) I’ve seen 6-7 Plaintive all on the small patches (both sites) looking for caterpillars. Adults are feeding/offering caterpillars to immature male and female Plaintive. I couldn’t take any record shot because the action was too fast, even to check through the scope. Until today (especially now the Plaintive and Banded are calling right in front of my balcony as early as 5 am. Both species are roosting opposite my balcony) I am still hoping to see the feeding again by adults.”

Connie’s Old reference from 28/8/11:
“I dashed out with my scope and walked straight to the ‘cuckoo field’ [less than 100 meters]. Oh my God…. at least 5 Plaintive C, Banded C and a male Triller all on the dense grass foraging for caterpillars. A pair of Black-naped Oriole with their juvs. were flying low above the ground. I finally realised they were chasing the Coppersmith away.

“Now the interested story starts from here…..

“What caught my full attention was the male Plaintive C feeding one immature male and female. I already suspect adults do fed the juvs. after when the host parents left them but cannot confirm it without any proof with photo. Again I still cannot get any image on the feeding. From what I guess the male could have mistaken the female as young female [later to be his ‘wife’] but what about the young male! This is still a big question mark for me! The male was spending most of his time on the grass chasing the male Triller away. Adults Plaintive will not allow the Triller to go near the immature foraging for caterpillar themselves [pic 1604]. Triller will have to fly further away from the cuckoos or perched on the rusty steel [pic 1608] aiming straight for the caterpillar.

“I counted immature, either on the grass or perched on the rusty metal to rest “.

Comments from Dr David Wells:
“More interesting finds! Quote probably no-one has done the research, but inherently unlikely that both sexes of this parasitic cuckoo species sing the same loud advertising song. As this is not the brood-host nesting season moreover territorial defence would not be expected to be at its height. I suspect that you had two males perhaps drawn to a concentration of caterpillar food (as Connie has repeatedly observed in your area) that were nevertheless stimulated to counter-call by coming into close visual contact.”

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.

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