Interesting common or local names

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OndineE's picture
Interesting common or local names

An enquirer has just asked whether koels are more frequently calling before rain, as her nan used to call them 'rainbirds'. Our fact sheet on the Channel-billed Cuckoo mentions 'stormbird' as one common name (it shares this with the White-throated Needletail, which actively hunts insects along storm/bushfire fronts). It would be interesting to collect some of these local names for birds that relate to their behaviour or other aspects of their ecology, as often they ring quite true!

Channel-bill Cuckoo fact sheet:
White-throated Needletail fact sheet:

nick13579's picture

i reshearched the topic and came across a page that said birds Associated with calling and hunting before rain are Usually incestovores meaning thay feed primaly off insects.

BattyBabbler's picture

Kookaburras are said to herald rain by lots of group laughter, but I have never been quite able to make it stick. They also seem to undertake lots of group gatherings and hilarity when there is no rain nearby.

Batty Babbler

OndineE's picture

I find that parrots - Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos, Crimson Rosellas and Rainbow Lorikeets in my area (Blue Mountains) - are always very active during overcast weather, but they are not apparent just before storms and rain. I use them as a bit of a local barometer! I also see the smaller/medium sized raptors (kites?) hovering in overcast weather - I am assuming that this is a good time to hunt as they would cast less or no shadow? Would that be right?

Gemfyre's picture

In W.A. the white-tailed black cockatoos (Baudin's and Carnaby's) are sometimes called "rainbirds" in rural areas because they supposedly fly before a storm.

youcantryreachingme's picture

Hello all,

I have heard that when swallows fly low to the ground it means rain is on the way because a pressure system is forcing insects down low.

sandj's picture

Nothing to do with rain or storm birds, but on the subject of bird nicknames I wonder what local names there are for apostlebirds. Here they are usually called "lousy jacks", and sometimes "happy families". The last is so true - they are always happy and in large groups, which is why they're one of my favourites.

At our place we call rainbow lorikeets "bully birds" because they chase everything else away, though some of the doubly bars (double-barred finches) stand their ground for a little while.

BTW how do you pronounce "koel"? Is it coal or ko-el?

Jenny - a bird in the hand is worth ... releasing.

Lukecla's picture

You pronounce Koel ko-el, as it's name is derived from the call it makes. Listen to its call here:

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