The Channel-billed cuckoo will lay its eggs in a hosts nest and after the hosts own offspring have died the host parents begin the arduous task of feeding a chick that will grow bigger than themselves. Photo: Contributed.
The Channel-billed cuckoo will lay its eggs in a hosts nest and after the hosts own offspring have died the host parents begin the arduous task of feeding a chick that will grow bigger than themselves. Photo: Contributed.

World’s largest cuckoo visits Bundaberg

Another spring migrant is the channel-billed cuckoo which travels down from Papua New Guinea and Indoneisa to breed during the summer months.

It is the largest cuckoo in the world at 65cm and is much larger than its usual target species the Australian magpie, pied currawong, noisy friarbird and torresian crow.

It has a massive pale, down-curved bill, grey plumage (darker on the back and wings) and long barred tail.

The red eye has a circular patch of red skin around it that extends to the base of the bill.

Both male and female are similar.

It prefers to eat figs and other fruits and often the best place to look for them is in fig trees. However, they have a very loud call that is usually given when they are flying over and when you look up you will see a large grey crucifix shape.

They will usually lay one egg in the hosts nest but unlike many other cuckoos, the young birds do not evict the host's young or eggs from the nest, but simply grow faster and demand all the food, thus starving the others.

After the hosts own offspring have died they are removed from the nest and the host parents begin the arduous task of feeding a chick that will grow bigger than themselves.

Although they are not nocturnal birds, Channel-billed Cuckoos are notorious for calling all night long during the breeding season.

They are common around suburban areas although a bit shy so you are more likely to hear them than see them.

A good places to see them are at the Botanic Gardens or Baldwin Swamp Enviro Park where there are fig trees that they like to feed on.

Allan Briggs is the secretary of BirdLife Capricornia. You can contact him with your bird questions at abriggs@irock.com.au.