Malaysian Birds

Asian Koel

The Asian Koel is a member of the family of birds under Cuculiformes. Within this family, there are also birds with names that we are all familiar with such as Cuckoos, Malkohas and Coucals.

The body profile and the posture of the Asian Koel bears so much similarities with these birds. Most important to note is the fact that Koel is also brood parasite i.e. they lays eggs in the nests of other birds. Koel are very frugivorous when their diet consist entirely on fruits.

In the 1980's these birds in their passage through Peninsula Malaysia prefers a route passing by the coastal area along the Strait of Malacca. Hence islands like Penang & Pangkor see a lot of these birds. Lately the birds moved further inland and this time we get lots of the birds in our garden as well. Old habits dies hard, on the coastal area, this bird is still seen in larger numbers.

The very familiar calls of loud continuous call of "Koo-oo" in monotone is that of the male while a second call heard at times in a form of rapid single tones is that made by the female in respond.

As for the origin of the name "Koel", various sources mentioned that the name "Koel" could be echoing the calls that the bird made. There are others who think that the name derived from a Hindi word which has its roots as "Kokila" in Sanskrit. Anyway I learned that in Sri Langka the local name for this bird is "Koka"

Koel do not simply lay eggs in empty nest. They carefully chooses the host. When the time is ready, the female would lay her eggs within a day or two after the host has laid her first eggs. Somehow by design they know that their eggs would be hatched 3 days ahead of the host's chicks. 

The Asian Koel also share lots of similarities with the House Crow like body color and shape. It is marginally slimmer and smaller in size. The main diagnostic marking from the House Crow is that the Koel has a stout greenish beak and red eyes.

Size & diagnostic markings:- 44 Cm. The size of 44 cm shows that this is a large bird. The upper part and the under part are in uniform dark color. The feathers are glossy blue-black in color, the stout pale greenish  and of course the red eyes. 

Distribution :-  Resident in the Greater Sundas, Philippines, New Guinea. Breeds in the Indian sub-continent, Central and south China. A passage migrant through Peninsula Malaysia. 

Habitats & preferences:- Secondary growth, cultivated land parks and garden.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- As I mentioned, the bird is mostly seen near the coastal region of the Straits of Malacca. Now when in season, the calls could be heard in almost every part of the west coats of Peninsula malaysia.












 My personal jottings :-

The calls of the Koel could be heard in December each year than it tapers off and return again in late March and April. This would be the time when the presence of the bird could be felt for a few weeks. In the month in between, hardly any calls heard at all. It is not surprising that the Koel could also be spotted sporadically during this period. This means that some birds are around but there was no need to call.

In the early weeks of April, the calls were intensified marked by commencement of calls at daybreak and before the sun rises 7.15am. In the day, there would be continuous calling and responses from some distances. This gives an impression that the birds are active and there were more than one bird in the vicinity.

Comes end of April, the calls were intermittent and far apart. The early morning calls were sporadic, short and far away. there were no evening calls. I am still monitoring. By the end of May, the early morning calls and the those of day time were still being heard. The calls were softer, made by birds from far way. Duration of calls shorter. Likewise with the din of the daytime activities, the softer calls from afar could no longer be heard, Those from immediate neighbor, heard were limited to once a day and the duration short without repeat. All these signs of falling population and that the vagrants were hunting for companion.

Then in May, the calls were still consistent and noticeable particularly in the early morning and shorter session in the twilight time. In between an isolated bird may turn up and give a quick session of a couple of the minutes.

Comes June, these calls were getting shorter could be sign of the calls made by isolated birds and not responded by the lack of other Koel presence in the area. Towards the end of the month the calls were softer which was an implication that the bird were far away.

Then in July, the morning were much softer and almost unnoticed. In the area of the coast, I still met up with a male bird. Even in that area, calls in the day was unheard of.

Though the bird both male and female could be easily spotted all over the Klang valley, they are seen in good numbers at the Selangor's coast. So would be the entire coastline in Malaysia.

The sub-species seen here is the Eudynamys scolopacea malayana which is spotted in West & south of Mymmar, Central and south of Thailand then the Malay peninsula. Any migration that the bird does would be confined to this circuit.

The Vagrants as we called them are around in other months. I started watching them in December. Both male and female were around in the same vicinity but not foraging together. There was absolutely no calls at all. Occasionally, the birds let out a short burst of 4-5 continuous note but that's with no response. Then came January, some calls heard in the early morning but limited to single bird with a one time call. In February, the calls were made with calls in the early morning too, increased to couple. In March, there were the infrequent morning calls and some calls in the day,. Now in late March, the calls were getting frequent in the daylight hours. I am noting the intensity of the calls made.


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