The Singing Parasite

Indian Koel or Soft Black Cuckoo is infamous for its breeding habit. Female Koel acquires a crow’s cozy nest and lays eggs in it. In the meanwhile, male Koel distracts nest-owner until female lays its eggs. Similar eggs are then hatched by crow.

Koel’s eggs hatch first, they are feeded by Mum Crow, soon Koel kids throw out almost hatched eggs of crow. Among the Cuckoo’s chics, a surviving crow’s chic is crying for feed. Rest of the crow’s chics and eggs have been thrown out of nest by invader’s Koel chics.
Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi have not lost just its sparrows. By all accounts, its crow population is also coming down. No, I do not have any authoritative proof of this, but going by the sound of bird calls early in the morning, I dare say the Koel or Cuckoo (bird books refer it to as the Asian koel going by the zoological name Eudynamys scolopacea) is increasing its numbers at the expense of. . . of course, the crow.Poor Crow feeds young Cuckoo hatched by herself, knowing not it is Koel chick.

As a child, I distinctly remember that you only heard the occasional and distant sound of the cuckoo – a plaintive cooo…cooo call. Rarely did you see them. The crows, on the other hand, were all over the place. They were raucous, they were rowdy and, especially if it were a Hindu house, they would demand that they be fed rice first, at the time they were used to being fed, before the household sat down to have its brunch.

I have seen their unity in childhood in my football ground size backyard. A baby crow had fell down from its nest under the Neem Tree. Baby’s screams were too sharp and in minutes hundred of mature crows gathered in the backyard. My Dad had given me instruction for not to go near baby crow, yet I wanted to put it back in its nest. I was getting closer to baby, when I felt the fulfing of feather overhead, next moment I felt sharp pain on my head, I had been hit by a crow. Nobody could touch the baby. Two days later it flew to the top of the neem. Until then, crows were gaurding.

Indian folklore has it that if crows fly over your house raising hell, you were sure to get visitors or guests. Not sure if this is true, but we still believed what the textbooks said. But, there were so many of them crows always making a noise, that it must often have been pure coincidence that guests landed up at home.

Thinking back about those happy childhood days and comparing it with the early morning bird sounds now, I am convinced that the cuckoos have taken over. Their loud shrieks from before the crack of dawn drown out any other bird sound, especially those of the crows. The only other birds that manage to be heard are the babblers – or seven sisters, as they are more commonly known – that thanks to their shrill calls still manage to be heard.

The cuckoos can now be heard throughout the day, not just a distant sound. You can see them easily too. The koel, as it is known in North India, lays its egg in the nest of other birds, most often crows.

The modus operandi is simple: the male distracts the crow from the vicinity of its nest and the female uses this opportunity to lay its egg and scoot. The poor crow will sit brooding, waiting for the eggs to hatch, not knowing whether what is going to come out is a baby crow or a cuckoo!

From the balcony of my home, it is quite a sight to see the crow go after the koels. The males are glistening black with a yellowish green bill and the females are brown, profusely spotted and barred. Many of my friends have complained of the racket the koels make early in the morning. I, for one, don’t mind. I get alarmed when I don’t hear the koel sound first thing, before the crack of dawn. To your surprise, my wife told me that she has been listening coo coo around 1.30AM.

Does the increase in koel population have anything to do with our changing social behaviour – more of live-in relationships being openly talked about, more of surrogate parenthood…
Eh, crow needs to go for Test Tube Reproduction system, else extinction is just a matter of time.

…shabab Khan || More...:ADD

About Shabab Khan

A Journalist, Philanthropist; Author of 'The Magician', 'Go!', 'Brutal'. Being a passionate writer, I am into Journalism and writing columns, news stories, articles for top media house. Twitter: @khantastix
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