Friday, 22 November 2013

Black-eared Cuckoo

It has been a rather hectic past few weeks, what with the Tawny Frogmouths fledging and doing a bit of general bird-watching around the south east of New South Wales and the ACT. I'll post as much as possible over the next few weeks, but meanwhile here are some shots of a Black-eared Cuckoo Chalcites osculans, which was caught during a regular study of birds at Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve, on the 9th November.

The trip was led by Mark Clayton as usual and in over eighteen years of study this was the first of this species caught there. The Black-eared Cuckoo is a national widespread bird, but rather uncommon and can be difficult to find by birdwatchers. So I felt it appropriate to add a few pointers on the bird's plumage to help others identify one if they do ever have the fortune to come across one.

The distinctive face of a Black-eared Cuckoo
There is no mistaking the bird as a cuckoo in Australia, but a couple of us with experience of northern hemisphere birds considered it as resembling a Northern Wheatear, due to its soft orangy plumage and dark eyestripe.

This bird had a rich pale orangy breast - a deeper colour than the expected buff
The under-tail barring is characteristic of the Bronze-cuckoo genus Chalcites.

The coverts on the wing were well worn and faded
The bird was quiet in the the field when we saw it and in the hand after it was caught, which might explain its elusiveness.

There was very little contrast between the underwing coverts and the faint wing bar across the primaries, secondaries and tertials
I did not see the underwing bar as being particularly noticeable in the field, nor in the hand. But the white tips to the tail caught my eye immediately.

The light grey rump contrasted with the back, wing and tail.
And the tail showed distinctive fault bars.
The overall glossy sheen on the back and wings was like those on other Bronze-cuckoos, although not so bright, nor green as in the other species.

1 comment:

  1. great ID pointers Stuart, thanks. Heard one, but not seen, in Deniliquin a couple of weeks ago when I was there for a couple of days. Good to see too that you had a successful Plains Wanderer trip down that way.
    Sandra H