Encounter with Rusty-breasted Cuckoo and Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo

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On 2nd February 2014, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS was out birding with bird watching colleague and friend Connie Khoo around the limestone hills at the fringe of Ipoh in Perak, Malaysia.

Connie alerted Amar to the presence of a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo (Cacomantis sepulcralis sepulcralis) that was sitting silently in a tangled part of a tree. Once spotted, the cuckoo was not at all afraid of the birdwatchers and allowed a decent approach (above).

“The important distinguishing feature is the yellow eye-ring. Note that it can raise the head hackles and I think this is a sign of concern or distress as was more evident on close approach, compare close ups in the images above,” wrote Amar.

Connie similarly spotted the Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor) (above), thus alerting Amar to its presence in the area. Amar returned to the area six days later and wrote, “…spotted what looked like a small raptor being chased by two bulbuls. Having seen similar events with Hawk Cuckoos I recognised this was the bird and followed. Another colleague mentioned that he had seen a White-throated Kingfisher chase the same bird two day earlier.”

“The features supporting the Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo in these images, as opposed to the Malaysian (Javan) Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx fugax) include: lack of a clear white nape patch, narrow penultimate dark band on tail and greyish appearance of the back.”

For identification, Amar recommends the excellent: Cuckoos of the World, by Johannes Erritzøe, Clive F. Mann, Frederik P. Brammer and Richard A. Fuller. Helm, 2012. Also, he refers to two articles to assist in differentiation from the Malaysian (Javan) Hawk Cuckoo: Yong, D.L. (2008). Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo A Birder’s Nightmare. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore) LINK and Con Foley. A Photo Guide to the ID of Malaysian & Hodsgon’s Hawk-Cuckoos LINK.

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