Eastern Koel female K Langley/Flickr

Eastern Koel

Did You Know?

  • Its average weight is 245 grams.
  • It is a member of the cuckoo family.
  • Its predators include birds of prey, and also lace monitors and pythons which take eggs and young.
  • It appears to be becoming more common in cities (e.g. Sydney and Brisbane). This may be due to an abundance of plants that produce berries or to the spread of some of its hosts, particularly the Red Wattlebird.
FactBox Image

The adult male is a distinctive glossy black tinged with iridescent blue and green all over, including its long tail, and it has a striking red eye. The female is glossy brown with white spots on top, and buff-cream underneath with many fine black bars running across its belly. The top of its head is black or brown with pale streaks, and its tail is brown with white bars running across it. A young bird looks like an adult female but has buff barring on its wings and generally much more buff colouring.


39 - 46 cm long (from head to tail)



During the breeding season, the male's call is a loud ascending whistle "coo-ee" or "ko-el" which is repeated monotonously, while the female's call is a repetitive "keek-keek-keek-keek". Males can often be heard calling throughout the day, though especially in the early morning and evening, and sometimes at night.


Mainly fruit such as figs and berries, and occasionally insects. It usually feeds in the canopy of trees.


A summer migrant, it arrives in Australia in late September or October each year from its winter home in south-east Asia. After breeding it leaves Australia in March or April, although some birds may remain in northern Australia.


After mating, the female lays a single egg in the nest of another bird species (called brood parasitism), commonly the Red Wattlebird, Magpie-lark, Friarbird or Figbird. After hatching, the young bird forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest and the host bird raises it, unaware that it is not its own young. The young Koel grows to nearly twice the size of the host bird in four to six weeks, before migrating northwards, usually later than the adults. It returns the following year to breed.

Field Guide

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Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • Courting/Mating

  • Calling

  • Feeding

  • Hosts feeding young

When and Where

When To Look

From September to March. Young birds are in nests for 3 - 6 weeks before fledging.

Where To Look

  • Coastal areas in northern and eastern Australia, as far south as Nowra in New South Wales. Some are also occasionally found further south.
  • In urban, rural, forest and woodland environments, especially where there are tall trees.
  • Wherever there is plenty of fruit in trees, males are often seen perched up high as they call and display to the females.
  • Koels are quite shy and are often heard rather than seen.
Species: WhatElse Image

Similar Species

No other birds in Australia are similar to the Eastern Koel (formerly known as the Common Koel).

In New Zealand, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, Long-tailed Cuckoos (Eudynamys taitensis) resemble the female Koel in plumage.