06 February 2009



the vibrant call comes shrill
and haunting in – a male
Koel’s heartrending voice
retells at night a cuckoo’s choice
distressed with poignancy

no-one is completely free
of omnipresent anguish he
expresses well in simple notes
repetitive from loft of tree –
one rarely sees the red-eyed bird

we know for whom his calls
beseech – a fleeting rainbird’s
raiment drifts in mist that cools
at dawn’s debouche – and there
she flits, trills a shy reply
© 22 September 2008, I. D. Carswell

Koel - Eudynamys scolopacea
When the summer rain comes, so does the distinctive call of the koel, or rainbird. These large cuckoos call during their breeding season from September to February, which corresponds to the summer rain season in many areas. You can hear them day and night, but their call seems especially haunting after dark.

Koels are migratory birds that travel to Australia to breed, arriving in south-east Queensland in spring and staying until March-April when they head back to Indonesia. Australian stopovers also include coastal areas in northern Australia and down the east coast to Victoria.

Male koels are blue-black with a striking red eye and a long tail. Females are slightly smaller, with a black face, chestnut throat, red eye and olive or green beak. Females leave the hard work to someone else, laying a single egg in another bird's nest and leaving them to raise her chick. You can often spot males perched in high positions calling and displaying, but koels are shy and are unlikely to let you approach them.