Indian Koel Cuckoo – early days with a Crow family

Indian cuckoo, koel, nest, birdwatching in India, urban birds of India

The baby cuckoos are artists in the art of cajoling their step parents!

The baby cuckoos are artists in the art of cajoling their step parents! At midday I hear them at their loudest. Two young cuckoos in a crow nest in a thicket across my home make sure they harass the crows enough to get a good supply of food through the day. I set out boiled rice for them in a bowl, and it is enticing to watch them sit near the rice, and vociferously call out to their crow-parents to come and feed them. The cuckoos are big enough to fly, but not big enough to eat on their own as yet.

Urban birds of India, Birdwatching in my rooftop garden, Indian cuckoo Koel young ones

Young cuckoos are not the melodious songsters that cuckoos are famed to be! These little ones croak loudly to communicate to their crow-parents or even to call out to their siblings, when they eye a place where food is available, such as the rice bowl in my rooftop garden.

It is amazing to watch the crows feed the young cuckoos, despite the dissimilarity in appearance to themselves. My mother says that the crows finally realise that the cuckoos are not their own offspring when they hear them sing like cuckoos once they grow up. And what happens to the crows’ own eggs that were in the nest before the mother cuckoo laid her own to add to the clutch? Any answers, do let me know at

And why does a Koel choose the crows’ nest to lay its eggs? My guess is that since crows use the same nest, year after year, with some repair job, the cuckoo knows where to find a suitable nest. And also because the crows are aggressive when it comes to protecting their nest and young ones, battling even the Black kites, cuckoos choose the crows for parenting their young ones.

Koel in Hindustani Sangeet

In Classical Indian music, Purvang gharana, the Koel makes an appearance in Chaiti, Jhoolan and Kajari songs, to symbolise love, longing and celebration in different contexts. 

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