The Common Koel ~ My “Beltane Bird”

Posted on November 21, 2008 by Jenwytch at The Other Side.

Every year, a few weeks before Beltane, I begin to notice the distant calls of the Koel Eudynamys scolopacea – a bird I have now come to associate with Beltane. As Beltane approaches the calls become louder and more frequent as more and more of these birds move closer into the bushland surrounding my home and nearby suburbs. At night their eerie calls echo over the Woronora River valley, creating an atmosphere of magic and mystery, and perhaps even a sense of melancholy.

These large cuckoos call during their breeding season from late September and early October when they arrive in Australia from their northern winter homes to breed, to February. This period corresponds to the summer rain season in many areas, which is why they are also known as the rainbird. During breeding season they are found in northern and eastern Australia, south to about Nowra, New South Wales, although occasional birds are encountered further south. Female Koels leave the hard work to someone else, laying a single egg in another bird’s nest and leaving them to raise her chick. They stay here until about March or April when most Koels, with the exception of some that remain in northern Australia, head back to New Guinea and eastern Indonesia.

Koelthe 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

Perhaps you’ve heard the Koel’s beautiful, haunting call in the evening or early morning hours? Although, I could think of less poetic ways to describe it at 3:30am when it’s right outside my bedroom window, LOL! Click on the links below to hear examples of the Koel’s call.

Common Koel (1) (from Birds in Backyards)
Common Koel (2) (from Dept. of Environment & Resource Management, Queensland)