Asian Koel

Asian Koel

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Eudynamys scolopaceus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
12-15 yrs
WEIGHT
190-327 g
LENGTH
39-46 cm

The Asian koel is a large member of the cuckoo family and like many of its related cuckoo kin is a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of crows and other hosts, who raise its young. The male Asian koel is glossy bluish-black, with a pale greenish grey bill, the iris is crimson, and it has grey legs and feet. The female is brownish on the crown and has rufous streaks on the head. The back, rump, and wing coverts are dark brown with white and buff spots. The underparts are whitish but are heavily striped. The upper plumage of young birds is more like that of the male and they have a black beak.

Distribution

Asian koels are mainly resident breeders in southern Asia from Iran, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to southern China and the Greater Sundas. They inhabit light woodlands, shrubby areas with scattered trees, gardens, plantations, and urban areas.

Asian Koel habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Asian koels are shy birds that are usually more often heard than seen. They spend their time singly or in pairs hiding in the dense canopy. Asian koels feed by day taking fruits directly from trees; they may sometimes defend favored trees and chase away other frugivores. Asian koels are very vocal especially during the breeding season, making a range of different calls. The familiar song of the male is a repeated 'koo-Ooo' and the female makes a rhythmic 'wook-wook' and shrill 'kik-kik-kik...' call.

Lifestyle
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Asian koels are omnivores and consume a variety of insects, caterpillars, eggs, and small vertebrates. Adults, however, feed mainly on fruit.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
varies with location
INCUBATION PERIOD
12-14 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
1-2 eggs

The breeding season of Asian koels varies depending on location. In the Indian Subcontinent, it usually occurs from March to August. These birds don't build a nest and lay their eggs in the nests of a variety of birds, including the jungle crow, and house crow. They typically choose host nests that are located at low heights and nearer to fruit trees. Males may distract the hosts so that the female gets a chance to lay an egg in the nest. More often, however, the female visits the nest of the host alone. She usually lays only 1 egg or 2 in a single nest but as many as 7 to 11 eggs have been reported from some host nests. A female may remove a host egg before laying. The eggs of the koel hatch in 12 to 14 days, about 3 days ahead of the host chicks. The young koel does not always push out eggs or evict the host chicks, and initially calls like a crow. It usually fledges in 20 to 28 days and unlike some other cuckoos, the young koel does not attempt to kill the host chicks.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats to Asian koels at present.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Asian koel is locally common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. The national population sizes of the species include around 10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and around 1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in China and less than 50 individuals on migration and around 100-10,000 breeding pairs in Taiwan. Currently, the Asian koel is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Ecological niche

Asian koels are especially important in the dispersal of the sandalwood tree in India. Large seeded fruits are sometimes quickly regurgitated near the parent tree while small seeded fruits are ingested and are likely to be deposited at greater distances from the parent tree. This way koels contribute in shaping the ecology and evolution of tree populations.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Asian koels have great potential in colonizing new areas. They first arrived in Singapore in the 1980s and became very common birds. Some populations may also make long-distance movements being found in places like Australia.
  • Asian koels are unusual among the cuckoos in being largely fond of fruits as adults.
  • Asian koels consume the fruits of a poisonous plant Cascabela thevetia which are known to be toxic to mammals.
  • The Asian koel is a widely used symbol in Indian and Nepali poetry. It has been chosen as the state bird by the Indian union territory of Puducherry.
  • Asian koels were once very popular in India as cagebirds. Feeding even on boiled rice, these hardy birds lived in captivity for as long as 14 years.

References

1. Asian Koel on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_koel
2. Asian Koel on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22684049/93012559

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