Heralding the Avurudu with a call for a mate
|The female Koel
||The male Koel. Pix by Fonny de Fonseka
The koha, or Asian Koel, is widely considered the harbinger of the Avurudu season. Many Sri Lankans believe the koha is a migrant bird that visits our gardens expressly to convey the Avurudu message. But this is not so. The Asian Koel is around all year.
What happens around Avurudu time is that the male cuckoo starts calling and competing for a mate. The male Koel’s melodious song signals the start of the breeding season, which coincides with the April festive season.
The blackish, red-eyed Koel is often associated with a spotted bird, the thith koha (spotted koel), which is thought to be another cuckoo species. But the bird is in fact the female Asian Koel. The male and female are totally different in appearance, as these photographs show.
The Asian Koel demonstrates an interesting behaviour pattern known as brood parasitism: instead of building its own nest, it lays its single egg in the nests of other birds, usually those of the crow.
It is believed that the male Koel distracts the crows from their nests so that the female can seize the opportunity to lay her egg.
The Koel fledglings usually hatch before the baby crows, and eat most of the food brought by the unsuspecting crow parent. However, when the crows detect the intruder, they eject it from the nest.