The Channel-billed Cuckoo is the largest parasitic cuckoo in Australia. It migrates to Sydney in spring and summer from as far north as New Guinea and Indonesia. It breeds in Australia in spring and summer and then returns north by February. It is a huge grey bird with a very large grey bill and bare red skin around the eyes. It has a long tail with a black band near the tip.
In flight it has strong regular wingbeats and is thought to look like a flying walking stick. When they arrive in spring they are quite obvious as they fly around with loud raucous calls. They mainly eat fruit, but will also feed on large insects, small lizards, mice and the young of other birds.
Being parasitic they do not build their own nests and do not raise their young. It takes a large host species to deal with a hungry juvenile so they use Currawongs, Magpies or Ravens as hosts. Unlike most other parasitic cuckoos the Channel-bill can lay up to 5 eggs in the one host nest, and once the chicks hatch they do not instinctively eject the host eggs from the nest.
The cuckoo chicks grow very quickly and take all the food the host birds can bring to the nest, and this causes the host chicks to starve and die.
The juvenile cuckoo (pictured) grows to be as big as the adult birds but with a smaller bill and buff feathering on the head, and no bare red skin around the eyes. You will usually hear this cuckoo’s call before you see it as it flies over the Parklands.