Molly’s Cuckoo

My partner’s 10 year old daughter, Molly has grown up in the bush. She has been able to see lots of animals that city kids don’t get to see. Sometimes we forget how wonderful our Biosphere really is.

My son, who is now working in Brisbane grew up in the bush and I know that he will never forget the things he saw all the time. He had some mates up recently, and one of them had never seen a kangaroo ‘in the wild’…

On the weekend, as we were enjoying some fantastic sunny weather, we heard a thump outside. Molly was the first on the scene. She came running in with a little bird in her hands. It was a Fan tailed cuckoo [Cacomantis flabelliformis]. They are a beautiful bird. It is slender [approximately 25 cm long] with a slate grey back, tending to rufous orange underneath, with distinctive black & white barred tail. The call is very distinctive…a descending trill, which I reckon sounds quite mournful.

This one looked pretty dazed, and having seen this before I knew that it would either a/ die, or b/ recover after a while! So Molly and I found a cardboard box, put a towel in the bottom, the injured bird on that, and then covered it up with another towel so it was dark and safe. It is then just a waiting game.

This bird is one of the Cuckoos we get here. As with most of the Australian cuckoos, this one is a ‘brood parasite’… which means that it lays its eggs in nests made by other bird species. These unfortunate souls include the fairy wrens, scrub wrens and thornbills. The cuckoo kicks one of the host birds eggs out of the nest, and replaces it with one of their own…. it gets worse. The cuckoo chick generally hatches earlier than the host chicks, and the little cuckoo kicks out the other eggs or chicks, or both! The foster parent then gives all its attention to the cuckoo chick.

Anyway, after being nursed by Molly all day [!], we finally took the box outside about 3.00pm. At first the bird just sat on the towel and looked around. Molly picked the bird up, and it came to life…and flew into a nearby tree. One of the wonders of life I reckon…