Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Did you know?

The egg of a cuckoo tends to hatch earlier than those of its host, which allows the cuckoo chick to remove the unwanted eggs of its 'adopted' parents.

Calls
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
24cm
Maximum Size: 
28cm
Average size: 
26cm
Average weight: 
58g
Breeding season: 
August to December in the east; June to October in the south-west.
Clutch Size: 
1
Incubation: 
13 days
Conservation Status
Federal: 
NSW: 
QLD: 
SA: 
TAS: 
VIC: 
WA: 
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Atlas Number: 
338
What does it look like?
Description: 

The Fan-tailed Cuckoo is a slender cuckoo and the adult bird is easily identified by a yellow eye ring (slightly greenish in young birds), its generally dark slate-grey back and wings, becoming pale rufous below, with a boldly barred black and white under tail. Younger birds are duller and browner in colour.

Similar species: 

The striking yellow eye ring (slightly greenish in young birds) is clearly visible from quite a distance and helps distinguish Fan-tailed Cuckoos from the paler and smaller Brush Cuckoo, C. variolosus (20 cm - 24 cm), which has a grey eye-ring. The Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, C. castaneiventris (20 cm - 24 cm), of northern Cape York Peninsula, has dark chestnut underparts and less conspicuous barring on the under tail.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

Fan-tailed Cuckoos are found throughout eastern Australia, south-western Western Australia and Tasmania. Birds in Tasmania migrate to the mainland in the non-breeding season. Fan-tailed Cuckoos also occur in New Caledonia, New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand and several islands in between.

Habitat: 

Fan-tailed Cuckoos are found throughout eastern Australia, south-western Western Australia and Tasmania. Birds in Tasmania migrate to the mainland in the non-breeding season. Fan-tailed Cuckoos also occur in New Caledonia, New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand and several islands in between.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

The Fan-tailed Cuckoo enjoys hairy caterpillars in its diet, but will also take a variety of other insects and their larvae. Food is located from an exposed perch and is seized in flight or from the ground. The bird returns to its perch to eat the prey.

Breeding: 

As with most other species of Australian cuckoos, the Fan-tailed Cuckoo is a brood parasite; laying its eggs in the nests of other species of birds. Host species include flycatchers, fairy-wrens, scrubwrens and thornbills, particularly the Brown Thornbill, Acanthiza pusilla. A single egg is laid in the nest and one of the host's eggs removed. The young cuckoo generally hatches earlier than the host's eggs and proceeds to eject the other eggs or hatchlings. The seemingly unaware foster parents then rear the cuckoo chick.

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