Monday 29 April 2013

I'm Back! And so are the Koels...

Hello, long time no hear.

Well I am finally back in Bombay after nearly a month in the UK.  You will have read in my last post how miserable I felt in grey and prohibitively expensive London.  But it's around 40 degrees here!  So it's payback time as I will now be confined to house and car with the A/C turned right up.  I will even find the short walk to Pali Market to buy my veg a challenge in this weather.  Should I be looking forward to the Monsoon which is scheduled to start in June?

Some of you will be asking yourselves what a Koel is - as mentioned in the title.  Well, the 'Asian' Koel is a species of bird which has a very annoying call and which is particularly vocal during its mating season (about now). I was not happy to be greeted by an army of Koels in the trees outside our apartment block upon my return to India! Usually, the calls start at around four in the morning - often waking me up -  then going on all day until dusk. The call is a rising 'Koo-el, Koo-el, Koo-el' (hence its name).  Anyone who lives in India will know exactly what I am talking about - as the noise can drive you to distraction.  

Male Asian Koel (Picture: Guy RH Miller via
You won't actually often get to see a Koel - so this is what they look like.
See that evil red eye?
Mr Jules, my bird-loving husband told me some facts about the Koel over the weekend after I complained about being woken up at 4am again. The bird is in fact a large, long-tailed Cuckoo - which I did know.  I guess when you compare the sounds with our British cuckoo, it's not too far off - although it is much louder and much more annoying!  But why are they around at this time of year making that terrible racket?  Well it's all to do with the crows.

Female Asian Koel (Picture:

The Koel is a brood parasite (as are all cuckoos) - which means that it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds - usually the Jungle Crow or House Crow.  At this time of year, crows are nesting - making nests and having families of their own.  When the Koels have successfully called out to a mate and are ready to lay an egg, the male will distract mummy crow whilst the female Koel lays her egg in its nest.  Sometimes the female Koel will do this on her own and sometimes she will even remove one of the crow's eggs before doing this.  Devious! When the chicks are born they initially call like a crow chick in order to deceive the crow mother.  Unlike some other breeds of cuckoo, they thankfully do not chuck out competing crow chicks from the nest - but instead will live in unison with them until they fledge after 20-28 days. So the cuckoo species has all the benefits of pro-creation without any of the inconveniences of bringing up their own children.  Perhaps clever rather than devious?

Here is a You Tube video of the annoying bird in question - see what I mean?  Have some pity on us!

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