Pheasant coucal – Centropus phasianinus

Adult male Pheasant coucal – Centropus phasianinus – in breeding plumage

I apologise for the articles appearing infrequently lately. I have been very busy preparing for the election, and in fact it was something that happened with that, that gave me the idea for this article.

I was banging in a corflute beside a country road just north of Crows Nest when I noticed a large male Scrub pheasant, or Pheasant coucal, watching me from a tree opposite. I later realised this was very relevant to the election.

Pheasant coucals are large birds that are well known for their impressive appearance and their booming “whoop whoop whoop” call. They have brilliant plumage and favour grasslands and understoreys for foraging. As this is their favoured habitat, their plumage camouflages well as it appears like a mosaic of grass and leaf litter. Pheasant coucals are weak flyers and prefer to run along the ground or fly in short clumsy bursts. They are often seen running up tree branches when they are flushed out of the ground.

Adult female Pheasant coucal

So how are these birds relevant to the election? Pheasant coucals are cuckoos, but are the only cuckoo in Australia that don’t practice brood parasitism. Brood parasitism is where one bird lays its eggs in the nest of another bird, usually throwing out some or all of the original birds eggs in the process. The host bird then raises the cuckoo chick as its own, and often doesn’t have any of its own to raise at the same time. Cuckoos are in fact stealing from other birds and the future generations of those birds. We are doing the same thing in the way we are clearing the environment here – we are stealing from future generations, and we need to be more like the Pheasant coucal and not the other cuckoos.

Adult female Pheasant coucal
Adult male Pheasant coucal – Centropus phasianinus – in breeding plumage

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald on 27th February, 2024