(9 Feb 2018)
The ornithologist John Latham – based in London – described the pheasant coucal as Cuculus phasianinus in 1801, based on a drawing by Thomas Watling. A drawing, made thousands of kilometers away, was the basis of the description of this species. The good old days…. 🙂
Watling (b.1762) was a Scottish artist, who was sentenced to fourteen years transportation to New South Wales on 14 April 1789. His crime: having forged 1 guinea promissory notes on the bank of Scotland. He denied his guilt, but rather than risk conviction and execution he asked to be transported and was sentenced to deportation. Watling escaped while docked at Cape Town in July 1791, but was soon arrested by the Dutch, imprisoned and taken to Sydney in October 1792. In 1797 he was given a absolute pardon by the colony’s second governor, John Hunter, himself an enthusiastic and able artist. In between he drew lots of animals, many of those were observed for the first time ever by the settlers.
So, what about the coucals? Worldwide six species of coucal pheasants: one on Timor, three on PNG and two in Australia: North of the Burdekin River the subspecies melanurus, South of it the slightly smaller subspecies phasianinus.
When disturbed, coucals run rather than fly, or fly clumsily, plunging into cover. Pheasant Coucals form lasting pairs and, unlike other Australian cuckoos, build their own nests and raise their young themselves. The nest is usually hidden in thick grass or sugar cane or in weedy thickets and is a platform of sticks, grass or rushes, lined with leaves and grasses. The male usually incubates the eggs and feeds the young, with the female helping with feeding. They feed on a wide variety of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals.
One of the first results of my new telephoto lens: 300mm, 1/640.