Have seen one hopping around and keep hearing its deep voice almost every day. And finally, today saw a pair of Greater Coucals feasting, each preferring a different dish.
With the looks of a big crow, one may think Greater Coucals belong to the crow family, they don’t, however. Greater Coucals belong to the cuckoo family. It is also called Crow Pheasant – a pheasant family bird, given its long tail, short/low flying capacity. In India, Greater coucals are called Bharadwaj and are considered a good omen, well, that’s just some ancient belief.
It has a dark head and body with a purple/blue-ish gloss around the neck/back, coppery brown wings, a long tail, and striking ruby-red eyes. Greater coucal flies low, and I have almost always seen them near the ground, hopping about low hanging branches, or walking into bushes and shrubs foraging on insects, caterpillars, and eggs of other smaller birds. Greater coucals are shy birds which is why you would hear them (quite loud) but not see them much. Its sound is deep, resonating. When I had first heard it, it sounded unlikely for a bird to have such a sound. I cannot identify many birds or their sounds, but this one surely stood out.
Listen to the greater coucal sound below
So, this afternoon, I heard the sound coming from the nearby bush. I couldn’t see the bird for quite some time as it was hidden somewhere inside the bush. After some time, it flew out and away. In a bit, another bird moved to the top of the bush giving me a clear view, that’s when I realized there were 2 birds all this while. It was their lunchtime and I saw this one with a caterpillar in its beak.
The other bird also returned after a while and walked to the lower part of the bush. I know these bushes have some sunbird nests. And soon enough, I saw the second greater coucal, drag out a tiny sunbird, stab and ram it on the ground. Later it took the poor little bird back into the bush again. Check the image sequence below. The images aren’t absolutely clear, but I don’t think I have the heart to see a clear pic of the poor little bird’s suffering 😦 (I know it’s how a food chain works and all, and yet I do feel bad having witnessed it)
Meanwhile, the first bird, with the caterpillar still in its beak, flew out of the bush and sat atop the lamp post. I’m not sure if it was saving the insect to gift it to the female it wanted to impress (yes, they woo the females with food gifts) or was it for its young one(s). Because it did not eat the worm (for the entire time which was easily about 15-20mins). It sat on the lamppost for quite some time, adjusting and balancing the insect in its beak, and finally flew away.