Plaintive Cuckoo handling caterpillars

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“I’ve observed this juvenile Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus) for three sessions, each time in the late morning, for about 1.5hrs. It looks for prey from a perch about 2m high and always procures its food (caterpillars) from the grass on the ground. When it sees something, it would usually tilt its head to one side and use the lower eye to have a good look before flying to the ground. Thereafter, it would fly to a perch to shake the caterpillar vigorously before swallowing it whole. The shaking is so fast we don’t see what is happening. We may see a droplet of liquid at one end of the caterpillar, though. The body juices of the caterpillar are probably unpalatable, causing the cuckoo to squeeze them out and shake them off.

“We can also see the zygodactyl feet of the cuckoo, a feature more often associated with woodpeckers.”

Tan Gim Cheong
Singapore
2nd October 2009

Note:The above image by Tan Gim Cheong shows the Plaintive Cuckoo’s firm hold on the caterpillar just behind its black head with its stomach contents splashing all over. Check out how other birds handle caterpillars below under Related Posts.

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