We heard the first Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae) of the season today – 19 September. In the eight years in which we have recorded their first calls they have occurred on September 7th (1 year), 19th (2), 20th (2), 21st (1), 22nd (1), and 24th (1). Pretty punctual for a bird that has flown all the way from its winter quarters in southern Indonesia, the Bismarck Archipelago or New Guinea.
These are spectacular birds, unmistakable because of their size, large bill, and the cruciform outline in flight, not to mention their raucous calls.
When they first arrive it is like greeting old friends. For a few weeks they are more or less discreet, not often heard or seen, but after a while they become more obvious, calling frequently and being chased in mad dashes in and out of the trees by other large birds which are their unwilling hosts.
Eventually they engage in night-long calling sessions, well and truly wearing out their welcome, particularly as they seem to prefer to hold their meetings on ridge tops (our house being situated on a prominent one).
To judge by the species which react to their presence they probably parasitise the local Pied Currawongs, Magpies and Crows.
[photo: Aviceda, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Channel-billed_Cuckoo_Sep07_kobble.jpg creative commons licence]