Shining cuckoo (pīpīwharauroa)

The arrival of the shining cuckoo is eagerly awaited by bird watchers up and down the country. It is first heard in the north in late September, but is rapidly heard throughout the country thereafter.

However, its arrival may not be as welcome to the grey warbler. The female shining cuckoo removes a single egg from the warbler's clutch, replacing it with her egg. When the cuckoo chick hatches it ejects all the warbler eggs and chicks and monopolises the efforts of the surrogate warbler parents until it fledges.

Given that the shining cuckoo spends our winters in the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago (New Guinea) or the Solomon Islands, it may have the excuse of too little time for its own nest building once it arrives here in spring.

The distinctive call of the shining cuckoo is described as a loud, upwardly-slurred whistle repeated several times. The sequence usually ends with a downwardly-slurred whistle. Repeated downward-slurred calls are generally, perhaps always, due to several birds gathering together, and may be part of courtship behaviour.

While the calls are loud and distinctive during the summer months, it is more of a feat to see the bird. It is smaller than a thrush and has absolutely stunning plumage: an iridescent green back and a pale breast with fine dark green barring. Sadly, the first time many people see a shining cuckoo is when their cat captures one that was feeding on the 'woolly bear' caterpillars among the cinerarias.

 

Shining cuckoo (pīpīwharauroa)

Shining cuckoo (pīpīwharauroa). Photo: New Zealand Birds Online

 

Shining cuckoo (pīpīwharauroa) calls on New Zealand Birds Online.

More info on New Zealand Birds Online.