Tags: Wildlife. Native. Birds. Cuckoo. Australian. Queensland. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay
Bronze-Cuckoos are the smallest of the Cuckoo species in Australia. They have iridescent bronze-green plumage and are barred on their underparts. Their calls are similar. All are parasitic and lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and expect the host birds to raise their chicks. There are four species of Bronze- Cuckoos in Australia.
Featured Image(above): Little Bronze-Cuckoo
Shining, Little, and Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoos have all been recorded on Bribie Island with the Little and Horsfield’s being very rare visitors. Shining Bronze-Cuckoos (Chrysococcyx lucidus) is the species most likely to be seen on Bribie Island as they are fairly common in the woodlands and eucalyptus forests.
They are small birds, just 17-18 cm in length with iridescent green plumage on their backs and heads and with black almost complete bars across their throat, chest, and tail. Their call from a perch is a high-pitched whistle which sounds a little like someone whistling a dog. Usually, they are reasonably quiet birds but become quite vocal during the breeding season. They are not easy to spot as they are small and are mostly in the mid to upper branches of the trees in rainforests, eucalyptus forests, and woodlands. Some are migratory while others prefer to stay in the same area.
From our area, some of the Shining Bronze-Cuckoos migrate to PNG. In Australia, they are found in the east and southern parts and in the south of Western Australia. They are also found in NZ and some Pacific Islands. Insects and caterpillars are their main food which they take from leaves and from the ground.
They sit on a perch waiting for their prey to appear. Hairy caterpillars are on the menu and the sharp spines are caught up in the soft lining of their stomachs. These eventually are spat out. August to January is usually the breeding time in our area. Being parasitic the females usually select domed host nests belonging to Thornbills, Gerygones, Scrubwrens and some other small species.
One egg is laid in each nest and up to 16 greenish-brown eggs may be laid in one season. Even though Cuckoo eggs are slightly different the host birds don’t seem to notice in the darkness of the domed nests. Eggs are incubated by the host birds. When the baby Cuckoos hatch, they get rid of any chicks or eggs which are in the nest. Host parents are left with just one baby bird to raise. Young Cuckoos leave the nests and are ready to fly after about 18- 22 days. Shining Bronze-Cuckoos are sometimes called Golden Bronze Cuckoos and are similar to other Bronze-Cuckoo species.
They were first recorded in NSW in 1801. Little Bronze-Cuckoos (Chrysococcyx minutillus) are very rarely seen on Bribie Island but there has been the odd sighting mostly in October. Being only 15-16 cm in length and weighing 17 g Little Bronze-Cuckoos are the world’s smallest Bronze-Cuckoos. They are bronze-green on wings and head, with broken black bars on neck, underparts, and tail. Their eyes are red which makes them easy to distinguish from the other Bronze-Cuckoos if you can get close enough to see them. Their call is a descending whistling trill.
Open forests, mangroves, rainforest edges, and melaleuca swamps are the habitats which they most prefer. In Australia, they are found in a strip from around Broome along the northern coastline to northern NSW. Other countries where they are found are Indonesia, Malaysia, and PNG. Insects and their larva are their preferred food which is mostly hunted from a perch and taken from foliage and on the ground. Insects are often caught on the wing. Breeding is usually from September to February.
Little Bronze-Cuckoos are parasitic and lay one brown, small egg in each of their preferred host bird’s nests. They use the nests of Gerygones and other small birds that build domed nests. The main threats to Bronze-Cuckoos are cats, loss of habitat and flying into windows.